8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Treatment of Ex-British Soldier: Article in John Bull.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to an article published in Mr. Horatio Bottomley’s newspaper, John Bull, which has a very large circulation, dealing with the case of an exBritish soldier who immigrated to Queensland? In this article,which is headed, “Cheating the ex-Soldier,” “Emigrated by the Government and Stranded Overseas,” it is stated that an ex-British soldier paid £85 by way of passage money for himself, his wife, and four children to Queensland; that when he arrived in Queensland there was no one to meet him, that he wad stranded, and that all the promises held out as to a grant of land and so forth went by the board. The man’swife died, and he had to pawn his tools of trade, and clothing, as well as hisdeceased wife’s effects in order to provide for himself and his family. While the article does not charge the Commonwealth with responsibility for this ex-British soldier’s treatment, it has a very serious bearing on the immigration scheme which the Commonwealth is now launching. I should like, therefore, to know whether the Prime Minister will draw the attention of the Director of Immigration, Mr. Percy Hunter, to the article, which has created much comment in England?
– My attention was not drawn to this article until thehonorable member spoke to me of it. I understand that this is alleged to be a typical example of the treatment of ex-British service men in Australia, and that, as the honorable member says, the article has attracted some attention and given rise to adverse comment in England. It would be proper for me to say, in the first place, that I do not necessarily accept the statement in this article that promises were made, but the promises, if any, were made by the State of Queensland, for which, of course, the Commonwealth is not in any way responsible. Secondly, the treatment of this ex-British soldier in Queensland is a matter of which I have no personal knowledge, and I am, therefore, unable to say whether, as a fact, it was as alleged.
Speaking generally, I think it well that British people should be told that the Commonwealth Government is not in any way responsible for promises that are alleged to have been made or for the treatment which it is said has been meted out to this soldier and his family. I notice in the article a statement that “ Brisbane is full of out-of-works and returned soldiers without employment.’’ I cannot say whether that is true. If it is, then the state of things in Queensland is very different from that in every other State of the Commonwealth. Lastly, I want to say, through the press, to intending emigrants from Britain, that the Commonwealth Government accepts no responsibility whatever for the position as set out in this article. Under the scheme which it is launching, the Commonwealth will see to it that immigrants are not induced to come to Australia by false representations. There is ample room in the Commonwealth for everybody who will work, but I think I may safely say that there is no room here for a man who will not work. Under the Commonwealth scheme, the organization at this end will see to it that a man, his wife, and dependants who come out here receive a helping hand, and are put into the way of earning a decent livelihood.
I shall bring the article under the notice of Mr. Hunter, and take such steps as are necessary and proper to set right in the eyes of prospective British immigrants the position of the Commonwealth Government and of Australia generally,
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Will he, for the convenience of members, have an alphabetical list made of all Commonwealth Government offices in Melbourne, with their addresses and the names of the officers in charge?
– This information is contained in pages 15 to 20, inclusive, of the Pocket Compendium of Australian Statistics, issued by the Commonwealth Statistician. Copies of this publication are sent to all members of Parliament.
Investigation of Forest Products
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Disposal of Battle Tank
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The delay in transmitting the trophies to the towns which have intimated their acceptance has been caused through the fact that no decision has yet been arrived at by the Queensland Government with regard to the payment of freight.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The measure is one which can best be dealt with in Committee, and I do not propose at this stage to offer more than a few brief remarks. There are only three major alterations ofthe Act here proposed. The Government are making provision for the application of quarantine to parsons landing in Australia by aeroplane. The arrival of Sir Ross Smith and his party, and of Lieutenants Parer and Mcintosh, demonstrates that within a measurable period there may be people landing in our country from time to time by air-way. The routes to be traversed will bring these travellers through the countries immediately to the north of Australia, from which there is, perhaps, more danger ofthe introduction of diseases than from any other part of the world - diseases, too, which are the most menacing to the community as a whole. For instance, if we should get Asiatic cholera it will have come, in all probability, from the north ; and it is considered advisable that there should be incorporated in the Federal quarantine law power to deal with persons arriving by air.
The second major alteration provided for in this measure is one which will give the Commonwealth complete power, in the case of an outbreak of disease, to deal with all quarantine matters and override State legislation.
– Would this power cover such epidemics as the influenza visitation of 1918-19?
– It would. Honorable members will recall the farcical state of affairs revealed during that epidemic. The position which arose proved almost intolerable to the travelling public, as honorable members - who, themselves, were subjected to indignities while journeying from State to State - will bear witness. Yet the Commonwealth Government were practically powerless to deal with the whole matter in a comprehensive way. We are now proposing to take power, in the event of a quarantinable disease breaking out as between State and State, to effectively override any and all State legislation.
– The States made it known during the recent epidemic that the Commonwealth Government had not then the power.
-The law did not give us the power which we are proposing to takenow; and I am advised that the alterations set forth in the Bill will, at all events, prevent a repetition of absurd border restrictions, such as occurred a year or so ago.
There is only one other major altera tion contained in the measure. It has to do with provision for the inoculation of personsundergoing active quarantine restrictions in regard to diseases other than small-pox. There are such virulent plagues, for example, as cholera and typhus. Without doubt- for the war has proved it over and over again - we can prevent the spread of these diseases by proper inoculation, particularly, of persons undergoing active quarantine restrictions. ‘Cholera is one of those diseases in regard to which it .becomes urgently necessary to take precautions such as are here .proposed; but, as the law stands, we have no power to compel people who are undergoing active quarantine to be inoculated against their will.
– Is this npt taking away the freedom of the subject?
– That is what citizenship means.
– At present, I repeat, we have the power in regard to small-pox. But, concerning other diseases against which vaccination or inoculation has proved effective, it is only right, for the protection of the public generally, that we should also have power to institute compulsory inoculation.
– I agree with the Minister that this is a Bill which can best be dealt with in Committee, but before we reach that stage, I should like a little information on certain points. The Bill proposes to repeal section 8 of the principal Act, which reads as follows: -
This Act shall be administered by the Minister for Trade and Customs.
I want to know what provision will take the place of this section?
– The necessity for the section disappeared with the passing of the Acts Interpretation Act. The Act must be administered by a Minister.
– There are several amendments in. the Bill which are certainly very necessary. For instance, provision must be made to prevent the introduction of diseases ‘by persons arriving in Australia by air, because they are bound to pass through what is known as one of the disease centres of the world. I refer to the territories to the north of Australia. Recently I had a conversation with a quarantine officer, who informed me of the steps being taken in Queensland ports to deal with persons arriving from Gulf of Mexico ports by way of the Panama Canal, indicating how much closer we have been brought to the yellow fever zone by the opening of the Canal. I regard expenditure on quarantine as money spent on insurance. The Commonwealth Parliament ought always to be prepared to spend sufficient money to insure the people of Australia against the introduction of disease.
– But under this Bill, shipowners are called upon to pay.
– The ship-owners are called upon to pay while persons are in active quarantine, but while the quarantine stations are unoccupied the cost of their upkeep falls upon the Commonwealth. The Department must be prepared to provide medical officers, nurses, cooks, and servants, and all the equipment of a quarantine station at a few hours’ notice. It is only right that the ship-owners should pay for the maintenance of their passengers and crews if it be found necessary to place them in quarantine. It is proposed by clause 2 to insert a new section in the Act as follows: -
I am not quite sure whether this Parliament has the power to make such a provision. Wo one in this House believes more than I do in the principle that the Commonwealth should be supreme over the States, but I am not quite sure how farreaching the recent decision- of the High Court may be in this regard. Certainly, if it can be interpreted to mean that the Commonwealth Parliament has complete control over the States in health matters, that is just the power this Parliament should have in this respect, because some of the regulations which the States put into operation during the influenza epidemic last year were absurd. Although influenza was endemic in every State, each ‘State Government made frantic efforts to keep it out from where it was already well established. I hope that, if the Commonwealth Parliament has the power which this proposed new section will give them, it will be exercised more wisely than it has been by the States. In this connexion we must not forget that, prior to the influenza outbreak, at a conference presided over by the Minister (Mr. Greene), the States agreed to give the Commonwealth full control in quarantine matters, but that, as soon as the representatives of the States got away from that conference, they went back on their promises.
– Victoria was the only exception.
– I have not looked into the clause which gives the Government power to inoculate any person who is in quarantine. I could understand such a power being exercised in order to inoculate persons against the spread of the disease for which they have been quarantined.
– The power is restricted to such cases.
– I did not understand from the Minister’s remarks that the power was to be so restricted. I understood him to say that persons coming down from. Eastern countries could be inoculated against the spread of diseases prevalent in those countries. Could a person quarantined for small-pox be inoculated for cholera?
– I do not think so. At any rate, that is not what we propose to do.
– I think the Government already have the power to inoculate persons in quarantine against the spread of any disease for which they have been quarantined. On one occasion the members of the Commonwealth Pearling Commission, who happened to be on board a steamer on which there was an outbreak of small-pox,had to submit themselves to vaccination. Personally, I believe in inoculation, and I am only sorry that the ex-Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster), and an ex-member for Werriwa (Mr. Conroy), are not here now to say something on the subject. As to the other provisions of the Bill, I shall be prepared to hear the Minister’s explanations in Committee. If this additional protection is necessary, I am sure that no honorable member will object to give it.
– In my opinion, this Bill is necessary, and I hope the Minister (Mr. Greene) will give some consideration to the recommendations made on Friday last by the Overseas Shipping Committee. That Committee has gone into the question of quarantine very fully, and has been distinctly told by the representative of the Federated Ship-owners that if an epidemic were to break out again they would simply refuse to undertake the expense entailed by the existing quarantine arrangements.. The Rotomahanà, I believe, was held up at Portsea for some seventeen days during an epidemic, at a cost of something like £1,200, in addition to the usual current expenses. At that time that and other vessels were being run by the Commonwealth Government, which had to foot the bill. The Federated Ship-owners declare that if similar circumstances were to arise again, they would simply lay up their vessels. This, of course, would mean absolute isolation for the north coast of Queensland, the north coast of Western Australia, and Tasmania.
– Tasmania looked for isolation, and then growled !
– It is the first duty of the Government of any State to keep its people free from disease. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) that where disease is present in a State quarantine is worse than useless, but where a State is clear, that State, in spite of any legislation by the Commonwealth, will endeavour, as far as possible, to keep itself clear. I hope that when the Bill is in Committee the Minister will propose a clause enabling the Government to enter into such financial arrangements with the shipping and trading companies as are fair to all parties. A vessel with passengers aboard may be suddenly quarantined for a fortnight or three weeks, and we ought not to expect the shipping companies to pay the cost of maintaining those passengers in quarantine.No doubt, as the Leader of the Opposition says, quarantine is a national insurance. We issue regulations for the purpose of protecting the people of all Australia from the introduction or spread of disease, and all Australia should contribute to the expense in some shape or form.
SirJosephCook. - There is the other view that trade of any kind should carry its own responsibilities.
– And also that unless there is some power over the shipping and trading companies they may become careless, and introduce people who will transmit disease.
– Quarantine is a great insurance against the introduction of disease, and the onus is thrown on the shipping companies not to introduce it.
– I have not suggested for a moment that ship-owners should have any inducement to be careless, or that they should be entirely free from any obligation ; but if we attempt to throw the whole onus on them they will decline to accept it, with the result that certain portions of Australia, which depend entirely on sea carriage, will be completely isolated. We have been warned by the Federated Ship-owners.
– That is because of the cussedness of the Tasmanian State Government; it was not action by the Federal Government that brought that about.
– If I were to express my opinion of how the quarantine regulations were carried out on a former occasion by the Federal authorities, it would not be found too complimentary. Unless we make some provision such as I have suggested in this Bill, we run the risk, asI say, of having certain portions of Australia absolutely cut off from communication.
– Do you not think that the shipping companies would add to the cost of passenger tickets and freights?
– If that were done, people would simply be prevented from travelling at all, and we have no right to prevent them. People are quarantined for the benefit of all Australia, and, therefore, as I say, all Australia should be prepared to bear some portion of the expense.
.- As a member of the Sea Carriage Committee, I can say that that body has gone exhaustively into the question of quarantine, and has been told, in no uncertain voice, by the representative of the Federated Ship- owners, that, in the case of another epidemic, they will refuse to runtheir steamers under existing conditions. I am not surprised at that decision, and I hope that the Minister, before we have con- cluded the consideration of this Bill, will consider the report of the Sea Carriage Committee, which will disclose to him the risks that we may have to run. We ought to deal with thisquestion of quarantine now, because after an epidemic has broken out, it is too late. The shipping companies are under an obligation not to charge more than a certain rate.No provision is made for the enormous expenditure that would be necessitated if an epidemic occurred again. During the last epidemic the ships running under the control of the Government incurred quarantine expenses to the amount of over £20,000, not taking into account the losses through laying up the ships, insurance charges, interest, and wages. TheRotomahana alone had to pay £1,348 for the benefit of its passengers who were in quarantine. In one instance there was only one passenger on board the vessel, but that passenger had to be placed in quarantine, and the total cost of running the station had to be borne by the shipping control. The steam-ship Wyandra had to pay quarantine expensesamounting to £1,942 15s. 9d. Honorable members will see how unjust it would be to endeavour to force any company to run its steamers during an epidemic, and to incur these enormous expenses on account of conditions for which the companies were entirely blameless. It is not as if the disease was being brought to Australia by an overseas steamer. These vessels trade from port to port on the Australian coast, and it is impossible to guard against a passenger coming on board and showing signs of disease when the vessel is at sea. Both State and Commonwealth railways insist upon the passengers paying the quarantine charges. Why should the railways be exempt from these charges and the InterState steam-ship companies be compelled to pay them? It has been suggested that portion of the quarantine charges should be debited to the companies, but that would necessitate allowing the companies to make an additional freight charge, which would be added to the cost of the goods. The merchant would add that extra charge to his selling price, and the retailers in turn would make their profit on the extra cost. Thus the charge would become a heavier burden on the community than if it were borne in the first instance by the Government: An epidemic of any disease is a national infliction, and the expenses connected therewith should be charged to Consolidated Revenue, so that the whole of the people, and not merely a few individuals, may bear them. The only other alternative is to require the individuals quarantined to pay the expenses. But it was found, on the Queensland border, in the case of railway passengers who were quarantined, that such charges were difficult to collect. Some people’ said they had not got the money that was required, and the charges had to be borne by the State. The more equitable way is to treat all alike, and charge all quarantine expenses to the Commonwealth in the first instance. A distinction should be made between steamers bringing diseases from overseas and those engaged in the Inter-State trade; these should be placed on all fours with the Inter-State railways. Nobody can say that the InterState steam -ship companies are responsible for any of these epidemics. If the Government consider it right that vessels should continue to run during an epidemic, why should the responsibility for quarantine expenses be borne by the companies? After all, quarantine is a form of national insurance. Passengers are sent into quarantine for the benefit of the whole community ; therefore the whole community should be taxed with the cost. In that way the charge upon the people would be less than if ‘the Inter-State steam-ship companies were allowed to compensate themselves by an extra freight charge which must be passed on through the merchants and the retailers, and paid by the consumers, together with the profit on the extra outlay. I trust that the Minister will give serious consideration to this matter, and will realize the injustice that will be done to the steam-ship companies, and the risk of the Inter-State trade being discontinued. The steam-ship companies have given ample warning that they will not operate their Inter-State steamers during an epidemic if they are to be penalized in respect of quarantine costs.
– I am very pleased that the Government have introduced this Bill, and I hope the Commonwealth has the power which the Minister says it has. I remember that, during the influenza epidemic, the Premier of Tasmania took a very high stand. The Tasmanian people were charged with having lost their heads in regard to quarantine, and when legislation to prevent such a thing recurring was threatened, the Premier of the “ fly-speck “ said that he would repel Commonwealth interference by force of arms if necessary. The Tasmanian Government insisted upon the exercise of its sovereign rights, and would not allow any encroachment upon them by the Commonwealth. One result of that action was that there was a great scarcity ,of many commodities in Tasmania, and the State Government then proceeded to complain of the failure of the Commonwealth to afford the shipping facilities essential to the obtaining of supplies. I mention this only as an illustration of the unfairness and foolishness of the attitude adopted by some State Governments. In February of last year, when the influenza epidemic broke out in this State, the Premier of Western Australia was in Melbourne, and was prevented from returning to his home by the Acting Premier of Western Australia, who would not relax the State provisions as to people from Victoria entering Western Australia. The result was that the Acting Premier continued to occupy that position for about seven weeks. That is another illustration of the absurd way in which some States, will use what they claim to be their sovereign rights in order to upset the claims of the Commonwealth*
I hope that this will prove- an effective measure, because I do not want a repetition of what occurred in February, 1919. The day after my return from South Australia, communication between Victoria and South Australia was cut off. There were not many honorable members about the House, but visitors from other States who were held up in Melbourne were constantly in search of their parliamentary representatives here, and I induced them to hold a meeting in the Treasury Gardens in order to discuss their position. That meeting was attended by some thousands of visitors from other States, who, because of the travelling restrictions, were unable to return to their homes. Many of them were on the verge of starvation, and their respective State Governments wished to throw on Victoria the responsibility of providing for their wants. The Victorian Government was not responsible for the embargo placed on travelling, and it naturally refused to accept the responsibility.
– If the influenza epidemic had not appeared here the Victorian Government would have acted as the other State Governments did.
– After the quarantine was lifted we discovered that there had been cases of influenza in Tasmania, although the epidemic was not as severe there as in the other States. These InterState restrictions are quite useless. To carry the system to its logical conclusion, in the event of the outbreak of an infectious disease in, say, South Melbourne, residents of that suburb ought not to be allowed to visit any other suburb. If each State is to be shut off in this way we shall next have a proposal that each State shall be divided into districts for quarantine purposes. In connexion with the influenza epidemic there arose in Australia a condition of affairs which, I hope, will not recur. I trust that the Government have the power which they are seeking to exercise under this Bill, so that in the event of another epidemic the position will be better handled, and travellers will have justice done to them.
.- Every one will agree with the view expressed by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) that travellers who are likely to spread disease have a right to submit to quarantine and to inoculation. Those who were associated with the Army during the great war are able to appreciate to the full the value of inoculation and vaccination. We are all anxious to keep Australia free from those curses of the East - cholera and small-pox. Even in those countries where cholera has beenthe subject of much scientific research, a safe inoculation against it has not been discovered. While I was in the East, 98 per cent. of those who contracted cholera lost their lives. Only 2 per cent. of the cases recovered. Honorable members will therefore recognise how important it is that every precaution should be taken to prevent the introduction of that dread disease into Australia.
I desire now to bring under the notice of the Minister the unsatisfactory position with regard to the Quarantine Station, Sydney. The station occupies a most prominent position at the entrance to Sydney Harbor, and although the situation in years gone by might have been an ideal one, the time has come when, having regard to the large population surrounding the area, and particularly to the fact that thousands of people on their way from Sydney to Manly, the most popular picnic resort in Australia, pass it every day, another site should be secured.
-Where would the honorable member put the station?
– Further down the coast.
-Would the honorable member suggest its removal to Canberra?
– I would not. The Quarantine Station must be convenient for shipping purposes. The New South Wales Quarantine Station for animals is situated at Five Dock, on the Parramatta River, one of the most populous parts of Sydney, in my electorate. There is a macadamized road leading to this Quarantine Station, over which in many cases stock proceeding to quarantine have to be driven. The Commonwealth, however, will accept no responsibility for the maintenance of that roadway. I recently urged the Government to pay a portion of the cost of its up-keep, but the Department declined to recognise any responsibility in the matter. Honorable members will agree with me, I think, that stations for the quarantining of human beings, and also of animals, should be as far as possible from populous centres.
Another aspect of quarantine that is lost sight of in Australia is that diseases may be readily introduced by means of the mail-bags that arrive from different parts of the world. When mails from oversea arrive at some of our big postoffices, the bags are upturned, and as the contents are emptied out the atmosphere becomes thick with dust. Mail-bags coming from the East are closed and sealed, and very often contain much dirt and dust. This dust is inhaled by the postal officials, and no measures are taken for their protection. I have even known dead cats to be turned out of mail-bags.
– Is there a greater mortality amongst postal officials than among other sections of the community?
– Numbers of postal officials have lost their lives as the result of diseases contracted by them while handling mail-bags. Quite a number of post-office officials lost their lives during the recent influenza epidemic, and the De- partment disclaimed any responsibility in the matter. No precautions are taken by theDepartment to prevent the dissemination of disease in this way. The fumigating of mail-bags is only a spasmodic operation. My contention is that every time a mail-bag is emptied it should be turned andfumigated before it is again put into use.
– Are there fumigating rooms at the various post-offices?
– There may be such a room at the General Post Office in each State capital, but on that point I cannot speak definitely.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) has referred to the expense to which steam-ship companies are subjected in maintaining passengers while in quarantine. I hold no brief for the steam-ship companies, but since passengers travelling by rail are maintained at the cost of the Government when they are ordered into quarantine, I think that passengers by Inter-State steamers should also be maintained while in quarantine by the Government. So far as passengers from oversea ports are concerned, I think there is a good deal to be said for the point made by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) by way of interjection, that the fact that the shipping companies are responsible for their maintenance while in quarantine leads them to take precautious as to the class of people whom they accept as passengers from outside ports. While it is necessary that precautions should be taken to prevent the spread of an infectious disease from one State to another. I think that since the people of the Commonwealth are of one race we should afford facilities for travelling under reasonable safeguards, and undertake the maintenance of travellers by rail or Inter-State steam-ship, while they are in quarantine. These are matters that can he dealt with better in Committee than in the House, but I hope that the representations I have made in regard to the quarantine station at SydneyHeads will receive the attention of the Minister, and that action will be taken by the Government to remove it to a more suitable site, where there will be less likelihood of the spread of disease.
.- I should like to refer briefly to the attitude taken up by the Government in regard to passengers on Inter-State steamers that are ordered into quarantine. Dur ing the last influenza epidemic many Inter-State vessels were held up, and their owners were put to considerable expense in maintaining passengers while they remained in quarantine. I hold no brief for these companies, but since they are in a position to pass on the cost so incurred by raising fares, and thus penalizing travellers, I think it would be better for the Commonwealth to undertake the maintenance of all persons held in quarantine. People are put into quarantine not so muchfor their own benefit as for the protection of the health of the whole community, and I feel, therefore, that the cost of their maintenance, while in quarantine, should be borne by the whole community. When a vessel from overseas arrives at a Commonwealth port with persons on board suffering from a quarantinable disease, I think that if the outbreak was the result of laxity on the part of the ship-owners or their representatives, the cost of maintaining the passengers in quarantine should be borne by the ship-owners. But it is unfair that persons who, in the course of business, have to travel from State to State, should be called upon to pay fares in excess of those that would be charged but for the fact that the shipping companies are liable for the maintenance of passengers on a vessel ordered into quarantine.
– What would be the position of a person who was simply going for aholiday?
– If there is an epidemic, I do not think there are many people who will care to go holidaymaking.
– Many people travelled on holiday during the last epidemic.
– I think the Minister is raising a point which is not worthy of consideration. Why should the Government seek to treat travellers by water differently from travellers upon railways? Even the latter, I hold, should not be compelled to bear the costs of quarantine. But the point is that the costs are not charged to the railways; yet expenses in respect of quarantining a ship’s company are to be charged to the vessel. In the light of evidence tendered to the Select Committee on Sea Carriage concerning costs incidental to running steamers, I am not surprised that shipowners should threaten to tie up their vessels during future epidemics.
– Before framing its report, did the Committee call any evidence from the Director of Quarantine relating to this subject?
– It would have been advisable to hear both sides of the question.
-I do not think it was necessary to call the Director as a witness. I have nothing to say against the Quarantine Department; it did wonderfully good work during the recent epidemic. But its Director is a Government official, and, so long as some one else foots the bill, he will see that the last letter of the law is obeyed. I say that he’ would be likely to follow that course, any way, if he were aware that the Government was not being required to pay.
-If that interjection conveys a true indication of the viewpoint of the Minister, one can appreciate the reasons underlying his proposal to pass costs on to the ship-owners. But it is not fair to the travelling community. Persons travelling by water should be treated in the same manner as travellers on land, whether by railway, or motor conveyance.
– Considering the risks run by sea travellers, they should receive fairer treatment.
– At least the same. If an epidemic occurs, every citizen of the Commonweal tih should be treated alike. If the authorities force shipowners to tie up their vessels, the whole community will be prejudicially affected.
.- I join forces with those honorable members who have objected to quarantine costs being foisted upon the steam-ship companies. Evidence has been tendered, on behalf of ship-owners, before the Sea Carriage Select Committee, and practically every member of that Committee has appealed to the Minister (Mr. Greene) to study the viewpoint of the companies in the matter of quarantine. Quarantine is a national matter; it is a form of national insurance. Why, then, should the cost be placed on the shoulders of any one section of the community? Most honorable members, I understand, have received aprecis setting forth the enormous costs borne by shipping com panies during the recent outbreak of influenza. I notice, from the information tendered , under the heading, “Statement of Quarantine Accounts Paid”, the following items: -
Koonda, £245; Rotomahana, £1,348; Paringa, £632; Wainui, £596; Victoria, £833; Wodonga, £620; Wyandra, £1,942; Dimboola, £621; Dim- boola, £855.
It appears that if a ship lands one passenger in an empty quarantine station, that vessel is debited with the whole of the expense of running the station for that one passenger. This is a most serious matter, and it is indicated that if another outbreak occurs in Australia the companies will be compelled to lay up their ships. I do not blame them. Not only is the question of quarantine charges involved; but what of the general loss in running their vessels?
– Does the honorable member contend that the companies paid those sums ?
– Such is apparently the case - on the face of the statement from which I have just quoted.
– The companies did not get one penny less as the result of the institution of quarantine.
– I understand that the total sum which they were required to pay was in the neighbourhood of £20,000.
-They did not pay anything. The Government paid.
– But they will not do so again.
– That is another matter.
– If another outbreak occurs the shipping companies will be required to meet the same total cost in similar circumstances.
I agree with the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) respecting the point raised concerning differential treatment as between travellers on trains and in steamers. Why should not passengers actually affected be called upon to pay? Why make the steamship companies meet the cost and let the railway authorities go free?
.- I shall not support the Government in their proposal to secure power to compel all persons quarantined to be vaccinated against the disease in regard to which they have been quarantined. I am wondering just where this business of com- pulsion is going to lead us. We shall soon be in a servile state, bound body and soul. I do not desire to cast any reflection on the medical profession, for there are several doctors to -whom I am under a deep debt of gratitude. It must be remembered, however, that there are as many schools of medical thought as there are of politics. Sufferers from nasal catarrh, a very common Australian complaint, will go to some doctors who will conscientiously insist on an operation to straighten the septum. Another, with sore throat, will be urged to have his tonsils cut out, though the profession has not yet decided what are the functions of the tonsils. A sufferer from stomach ache may gc to one doctor who will insist on cutting him open and taking out his appendix; another will recommend a dose of castor oil and a few days’ fast. Sometimes the operation kills; more often the castor oil cures. For every doctor who believes in inoculation for the cure or prevention of disease, you can discover another doctor who just as conscientiously does not belL/e in inoculation. I plead for liberty of thought and action. The Government propose that if a boat reaches an Australian port with a case of typhus, or cholera, or influenza, everybody on that vessel shall be quarantined, and everybody - healthy and sick alike - shall be vaccinated against the particular disease. That is to say, healthy persons as well as sick must submit, whether they wish it or not, to the introduction into their systems of some poison or other. For the preservation of the liberty of the subject I hope honorable members will not agree to the proposal. If persons who are quarantined desire to be inoculated against the particular disease in respect of which they have been quarantined, then, by all means, let them be inoculated. But if a person objects to having his blood poisoned - for that is what it may mean - with the virus of that particular disease, why should he be compulsorily vaccinated ? I understand that our soldiers are generally satisfied with the results of vaccination and inoculation during the war. Numbers of them, I have been told, had to undergo one process or the other as often as fourteen and twenty times. These treatments, I am told, were a success.
– And were essential.
– No one can tell, however, to what extent the vaccinations and inoculations may have decreased the soldiers’ vitality and reduced their powers of resistance.
– Better to have one’s vitality reduced than to lose one’s life.
-Very true; but, if the honorable member cares to consult books of reference concerning vaccination, he will be, able to peruse records of dreadful cases where people have had their lives mined by vaccination.
– But this is an argument which will never end.
– True again. There are people who favour vaccination and people who are apposed to the process. I have already pointed that out; and I again ask why should those who do not wish to be vaccinated be compelled to undergo the operation ? Personally, I am quite satisfied to take the chances as I go through life. During the influenza epidemic I had to undergo quarantine at Albury. There I spent a tiresome term of eight days. So far as the efficacy of quarantine was concerned, people were coming and going to and from the quarantine area, and were in daily association with influenza patients. The whole business was largely a farce. We, perfectly healthy people, ran greater risks of ptomaine poisoning, on account of the bad food, than of infection with influenza. I got out of the quarantine area with a clean hill of health, and subsequently travelled through a portion of Queensland. In almost every hotel at which I stayed there were influenza patients. In some there were as many as twenty cases. However, I escaped scot-free, although many doctors, of course, would have vaccinated me if they had had the power. I admit that it is wise to quarantine either travellers on shipboard or contacts in a dwelling where there is infectious disease; but cannot the community be safeguarded by the maintenance of such persons in quarantine until all danger has passed, rather than subject everybody to compulsory vaccination? It is wrong for Parliament to attempt to interfere in this extreme manner with the liberty of the subject. I know, of course, that there are some people who thoroughly believe in vaccination and injection in connexion with the most trivial complaints. That is all very well, and may be of value in the maintenance of their health; hut why make the business compulsory? I heard of a man the other day, by the way, who was afflicted with a common catarrhal cold. His doctor wanted to bore a hole in his skull, but a neighbour advised him not to submit to the operation, but to take a dose of a certain medicine, which I do not - intend specifically to mention. In a few days the sick man was walking about again, enjoying his ordinary good health.
– Was it a lunatic asylum ?
– No, it was in a very respectable and intelligent suburb of Melbourne. I am sure that the honorable and medical member who has asked that question knows that there are certain doctors in the community who believe, quite conscientiously and sincerely, that Immediately a catarrh forms in the nostrils or ear, relief can be afforded only by an operation in the forehead, or at the back of the ear. If my honorable friend has not met any of these gentlemen, I can assure him that I have done so. However, there is a difference of opinion among the medical profession in all these questions. It is not more than 100 years - my historical memory may not be quite correct as to the time - since persons were bled for every disease or ailment, whether it was toothache or typhoid fever.
– The life of the heir to the throne of England was lost through his mother, Princess Charlotte, having been bled to death.
– I know that the honorable member could quote hundreds of instances in which people would have recovered if they had not been bled to death. We have now reached a stage in the progress of medicine and surgery when some members of the profession think that persons ought to be inoculated against every form of disease. I hope the Minister will not press this provision, which seeks to compel every healthy person not affected by the disease for which a house or vessel has been, quarantined to submit to inoculation. I urge honorable members not to be too ready to insist upon compulsion. If we go on at this rate, there will soon come a time when we will all be compelled, as in olden times, to wear only a certain type of clothes, or part our hair in a certain way, or eat only certain foods, or drink specified beverages only. We already have compulsory enrolment, and in some places compulsory voting is enforced. I remember reading of John Ruskin the fact that never in his life did he vote for a political candidate, but if certain people had their way they would take a man like John Ruskin by the scruff of the neck, push him to a polling booth, and compel him to vote. Of course, there can be no guarantee that a compulsory vote will be recorded for a certain candidate, and we know that an individual may escape the compulsory voting provisions bv rendering his vote informal; but under this Bill there will be no escape for persons who are placed in quarantine from being inoculated with the vaccine of tuberculosis, influenza, cholera, typhoid, or some other form of disease.
– Would the honorable member compel persons to go into quarantine ?
– Yes, I do not object to that restriction on persons’ liberty; but the danger an individual runs in going into a quarantine station and putting up with the risk of contracting ptomaine poisoning through the eating of bad food is small compared with the danger he is likely to run by being compelled to be inoculated with a poison prepared from typhus, cholera, tuberculosis, influenza, or small-pox. Let us bear in mind the fact that some of these diseases are the result of filth or vice. My own opinion is that if we would live moderately and keep ourselves clean in mind and body, and if we would not be led away by a lot of quack nostrums recommended to us, we would get along much better, even in times of plague. However, I have no desire to be giving free medical advice in competition with the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), but I urge honorable members not to compel healthy people to be inoculated as is proposed under this Bill.
– When the Minister replies, I hope that he will announce the attitude of the Government in regard to the ques- tion of the cost of quarantining. It is outrageous to expect private companies engaged in Inter-State shipping to carry what is a national burden, particularly when ‘it may have been incurred through circumstances quite outside their control. I am aware that the cost of quarantining during the serious outbreak of influenza last year was very excessive, mainly owing to the conflict of Commonwealth and State authorities, and some relief, I understand, will be afforded by the passage of this Bill, which will make the Commonwealth the dominating authority should such an emergency arise again, but still every care will need to be exercised, and its exercise will involve considerable expenditure, which it is not right the ship-owners should be called on to bear.
– Or the passengers.
– That is so; certainly not Inter-State passengers. There seems to be a wrong impression as to the treatment of the steam-ship companies during the influenza outbreak. At that time the vessels of those companies were under the control of the Commonwealth Government, and while, no doubt, the charges were debited against the shipping companies, I do not think they really were called upon to pay them. However, I hope the Minister will explain the matter very clearly, so that all misapprehension in this direction may be removed. The position is not likely to occur again, now that the Inter-State shipping has gone back into its normal channels, but if any arrangement is to be made for the future, it is infinitely better that it should be embodied in this Bill. I can say more about this when the measure is in Committee, but I ask the Minister, when replying, to let the House know the attitude of the Government in this respect.
. - I shall support the Government in the matter of compelling ship-owners to pay everything. I speak as one who has been a medical officer on seven lines of steamers, and I can assure the Government that nothing will make shipping companies more careful about taking diseases on board their vessels than the fact that they may be liable to heavy expenses for the maintenance of their crews and passengers in quarantine. My instructions as medical officer on board the China Steam Navigation Company’s boats were that I was to be most careful in allowing any passenger whatever on board. That was prior to the wise administration of the Philippines by the United States Government, which is standing, not only as a bulwark of safety against any enemy approaching Australia, but also as a sentinel in health matters. Every ship leaving an Australian port for Manila must be viseed, not only by the Australian health authorities, but also by the American Consul. Similarly, any vessel leaving Kobe, in Japan, must be visaed, not only by the Japanese authorities, but also by the United States Consul there,- who must also furnish a return of the number of contagious and infectious diseases in the port for the fortnight preceding the ship’s departure. The same rules apply when the vessel touches at Hong Kong, before it is allowed to call at Manila. But health is looked after so thoroughly and so systematically by the Americans that I have not seen the arrangements equalled anywhere else. I thank the United States for the splendid example they have set in quarantine matters. I have had some experience in quarantine. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), Senator Givens, and I, when-, as members of the Pearling Commission, we were quarantined, were patriotic enough to ask to be vaccinated with Australian lymph. But it was not lymph, it was filth. The temperature of the honorable member for Herbert was 103 degrees; that of Senator Givens was 104.5, and I was very much afraid that he would lose his life; and although mine was 102.5, my friends tell me that I was so bad tempered that I asked them , ‘ ‘ For God’s sake not to bother me, but to leave me alone.” Two officers of this House who accompanied the Commission were also vaccinated, and although they had occupied the cabin which a husband who escaped the small-pox, and his wife, who developed it, had previously occupied on their return from their honeymoon, and although one of the officers had slept in the berth in which the patient had previously slept, neither of them had any rise in temperature after vaccination. They had chosen Japanese lymph for one arm, and American lymph for the other, and in both cases the lymph was perfect. I do not know whether or not the Australian lymph had deteriorated by being kept at Townsville, but if I am similarly placed again, I shall ask for American or Japanese lymph.
I congratulate the Minister upon the improvement that has been made in the quarantine arrangements, with much benefit to those unfortunates who are detained. We must remember that those people are not sent there for any crime, but are merely segregated for the welfare of the community; and I maintain that there ought to be no differentiation in the matter of food or accommodation between first, second, and third class passengers. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) will remember that, on the occasion to which I have referred, I sent some very “ sultry “ telegrams to the then Minister for Trade and Customs, who, strange to say, was my present honoured leader (Mr. Tudor).
– They were sultry !
– And they were justified. Ladies of the second class were called upon to take their baths in a place where the washing was done, and the bathing accommodation consisted of a very small vessel only 10 inches deep. The fool officer of the Department who advised the then Minister for Trade and Customs, said that those ladies were provided with hot shower baths, and I replied that that information was not only inaccurate, but idiotic, inasmuch as there were no such baths. I am glad to say that the saloon passengers had a meeting, and agreed, without a dissentient, to place half the number of baths reserved for them at the disposal of the second class and steerage passengers. As I have said, the accommodation is now much better, but I protest to-day, as I did then, against any differentiation.
– Passengers by sea have you to thank for the expenditure of £20,000 in improving the accommodation at the North Head Quarantine Station, Sydney.
– I cannot take that credit, which must be shared by the honorable member himself, and every one of the saloon passengers on that occasion.
– North Head is too good a site for a quarantine station.
– If Sydney were one constituency, and I had the honour to represent it in this Parliament, I should do my best to have the quarantine station removed from that site, for it is an absolute infamy to have it so near a population of 500,000. Sydney is living on the brink of an inferno, for there is only the thickness of a piece of galvanized iron between the quarantine station and the people of Manly, and school children of the quarantine station actually associate with contacts like myself, and attended school at Manly. I may also say that from Townsville right down to Sydney there was only one doctor who took any antiseptic measures, and that was .the Japanese medical man on board:
– He did well!
– The other elongated doctor, in my opinion, did not know the A B C of the business.
I can relate an incident which may cany some weight with the Minister. I was medical officer on board a steamer entering a foreign port, and the captain, acting under the orders of the ship-owners, came to me and said that I was to put down in the record the name of a disease different from that I thought a suspicious case on board represented. To honorable members who know me, I need not say that this I refused to do, and, in consequence, I had a very rough time. In another case, a captain was a little more courteous, and, possibly, a little more astute. There were two suspicious cases on board, and in reference to these the captain said to me, “ Don’t you think the illness is so a’nd so ?” I looked at him, and said, “ Well, I cannot give an opinion at the present moment, but I should.be very loath to say it was.” Luckily, the cases did not prove to be dangerous, and, they having been segregated, we got through without trouble. So far as the English shipping companies are concerned, I have neither respect nor regard for them, though I have for the China Navigation Company, which gave me an absolutely free hand. I ask the Minister to be firm in making the shipping companies pay the expense of quarantine.
– What is the good? They only pass it on.
– How? By raising the fare?
– Of course.
– I hope this Bill will not allow the companies to have any claim on the passengers. People of wealth who are travelling for pleasure are not greatly inconvenienced, but it is a different matter with passengers who have to live on their earnings.
– There are only two questions on which I desire to say a few words in reply. Several honorable members doubt whether the Government have the power to do what is proposed, namely, to override the legislation of the States under certain circumstances. I think we have that power. Section 51 of the Constitution, which confers on the Commonwealth practically all the powersit exercises, specifically gives the power in paragraph ix. Then section 109 provides -
Where a law of a State is inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth, the latter shall prevail, and the former shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be invalid.
Clause 2 of the Bill provides -
Whenever the Governor-General is satisfied that an emergency exists which makes it necessary to do so, he may, by proclamation, declare that any or all measures of quarantine prescribed by or under any State Act shall, for such period as is specified in the proclamation, cease to have effect, and such measure shall thereupon cease to have effect accordingly.
Inasmuch as we have power to legislate in regard to quarantine, and in view of section 109 of the Constitution. I do not think there is any doubt whatever that this Bill will override any State legislation, and that is the view held by our Crown Law advisers. Of course, all such legislation has to stand the test of actual experience, but we believe that the provisions of the Bill will meet such an emergency as arose during the recent influenza epidemic.
– What would be done with Tasmania, the authorities of which State refused to permit people to land during that epidemic?
– The only power by which they could prevent people landing would be that exercised by virtue of the fact that the State had passed certain quarantine laws. Without being able to express a legal opinion, I think that if the authorities of a State tried to prevent a person landing, such a person would, under the provisions of this Bill, have an action against the State Government for forcible detention or something of that sort, and could proceed for damages.
– A person with no means could not do that.
– The probabilities are that a person of means would take the first action, and once the claim had been upheld by the Courts, a person of poor means could easily find somebody to back him under the circumstances. However, I do not wish to labour the point at this stage, but will reserve anything further I have to say until we are in Committee.
I now come to the question raised by quite a number of honorable members as to whether or not the shipping companies should he called on to bear the expense, in the event of Inter-State vessels being ordered into quarantine.
– There should be no differentiation between oversea and Inter-State vessels.
– I think there is a difference. This question, I understand, is one that has been investigated by the Overseas Shipping Committee, and I am sorry that by some means or other that fact did not come under my personal notice until it was referred to to-day. I did not know that the interim report of that Committee dealt with the subject, and I had not an opportunity to peruse it. I wish I had had such an opportunity, because it would . have enabled me to fortify myself with some information and argument. The Act as it stands is very clear on this matter. Section 59 of the Act of 1908 provided that -
The owners and agents of any vessel ordered into quarantine shall supply the crow and passengers thereof with such wholesome and suitable provisions and medicines as are required by the quarantine or medical officer in charge of the quarantine station, or as are prescribed.
The Act of 1912 repealed that section and substituted the following provision : -
The master, owner, and agent of any vessel ordered into quarantine, or of any vessel from which any person is removed to perform quarantine, shall severally be responsible for -
the removal of the passengers and crew to the quarantine station;
the care and maintenance of the passengers and crew while detained at the quarantine station;
the conveyance of the passengers from the quarantine station to their ports of destination; and
the medical surveillance of persons released under quarantine surveillance, and shall supply to the satisfaction of the Minister all such service, attendance, meals, and other things as are required for those purposes, including domestic and laundry service, medicines, medical comforts, nursing, and attendance for the sick.
The master, owner, or agent of the vessel may arrange with the Minister for the carrying out of any responsibility under this section, and for the payment of the expenses thereof, but in any case the Minister may take action if he thinks it necessary to doso, and any expense incurred shall be paid by the master, owner, or agent of the vessel to the Commonwealth.
A passenger shall not be liable to compensate the master, owner, or agent for any cost incurred by the master, owner, or agent under this section, and any contract or stipulation purporting to impose any such liability upon him shall to that extent be null and void.
That, of course, applies to all shipping. This Bill proposes to further amend that section by inserting after paragraph d of sub-section 1 the following paragraphs : -
There is no doubt that, when the original legislation was passed, the intention of Parliament was that the owners of vessels coming to Australia from overseas should bear the whole burden of quarantine. I do not think honorable members who spoke this afternoon question the equity and desirability of that provision. It is abundantly clear that one of the greatest precautions we can take against the introduction of disease is to place upon the owners the responsibility for paying the whole of the costs in the event of any vessel bringing disease to Australia necessitating the ship being placed in quarantine. The question which has been raised this afternoon is whether, in the event of an epidemic of disease within the Commonwealth - not necessarily a disease imported from overseas, but one that is endemic and becomes suddenly epidemic -the same provision should apply to Inter-State ships.
It would appear that section 59 has been brought under notice by the circumstances of the influenza epidemic in 1918-19, which caused a vast amount of expense and inconvenience. I understand that the whole of that expense was borne by the Commonwealth. At that time the vessels were under the control of the Government, the companies being paid Blue-Book rates for the use of their ships. The Commonwealth had to bear the whole cost of maintenance, and also quarantine. I am sorry that I have not had the chance of refreshing my memory as to the details, but I think I am right in saying that when that trouble arose an arrangement was made to divide the quarantine charges, half being debited to the Shipping Controller and the other half to Consolidated Revenue.
– The evidence before the Sea Carriage Select Committee contradicts that statement.
– Probably, for this reason : that the Auditor-General insisted upon our claiming the full cost, and then, after the moneyhad been paid into Consolidated Revenue, making a rebate. In the event of a similar epidemic arising with the powers which we are now taking to deal with the situation, the farcical condition of affairs which was responsible for nine-tenths of that expense will never arise again. The position was such that,I admit quite frankly, the Commonwealth was powerless, and to whatever the States required of us in regard to quarantine, we were practically compelled to submit. The officers of the Quarantine Department were perfectly satisfied as to the ineffectiveness and absurdity of some of the proposals put forward by the States, but we were powerless, and the States, working on the terror of the people, imposed restrictions and incurred enormous ex- pense, which was unnecessary, and, as events proved, quite futile. I do not believe that the same set of circumstances will ever arise again.
– Severe restrictions were imposed in Victoria when bubonic plague broke out in Sydney ; and when some cases of small-pox were discovered the people went off their heads.
– They did, but smallpox is a comparatively easy thing to control. There was not the same difficulty with the shipping as therewas during the influenza epidemic, because, so long as people had been vaccinated and gone through the necessary testing period, there was no question of quarantine.
– But there were examinations of passengers in every State.
– If cases of small-pox were detected upon a vessel, the vessel was quarantined ; but we did not quarantine every ship regardless of whether or not there was disease on board, as was done during the influenza epidemic. In the latter case, it was impossible for a vessel to enter a Tasmanian port until ii’ had been seven days in quarantine. That was an absurdity.
– The Commonwealth did that in regard to small-pox.
– Only if there was a case of small-pox on board a vessel. The time occupied by a vessel on the trip from the port of infection to Australia would probably cover the period of incubation. For instance, if small-pox broke out in Brisbane, which became a proclaimed area, w.e, would insist on persons wishing to leave that area being vaccinated. Until the vaccination had been proved to be effective, or it had been found, impossible to get effective vaccination, persons from the proclaimed area would not. be allowed on board any vessel. But. the vessel would not. be quarantined. There’ is a world of difference between quarantine under proper conditions and the policy adopted during the influenza epidemic. I hope that honorable members will not be misled by what occurred during that epidemic into opposition to the Bill, because I feel certain that, under1 a properly conducted quarantine system, the same state of affairs would not arise. Suppose that it became necessary, owing to the outbreak of disease in Australia, to institute a rigid system of quarantine between States, and to quarantine vessels indiscriminately - although I think that this is very unlikely - I feel satisfied that the power- we now. possess to- remit quarantine charges, or- so much of them as may be considered equitable in the circumstances, will be found sufficient to meet the case. No Government would permit the whole of the shipping of any portion of Australia, to be tied up, thus preventing people travelling between States, when that could be avoided by an equitable arrangement. Such an- arrangement can be made.
– Would it not be better to make the equitable arrangement before the epidemic occurs?
– We have power now to make an equitable arrangement, and we exercised it during the last epidemic. Owing to the restrictions which the Government of New South Wales desired to impose, a number of Intra-State vessels that were voyaging along the coast of that State were quarantined. We undertook the work for the State Government, because we had the necessary machinery at our disposal, and in those cases we remitted one-half of the charges. I do not think there is any doubt that, in the event of such circumstances arising, iti would be quite possible to make a similar equitable arrangement, under which certain charges would be borne by the shipping companies and the rest by the Government. In some cases, perhaps, no part of the charges would be borne by the shipping companies.
– Why not insert -such a provision in the Bill itself? We should then know where we were.
– We. have the power to make such arrangements, and I do not think it necessary to: make any further provision in this Bill. I have not had an opportunity to consider the matter as tully- as I should like to do, but I will carry the Bill to-night, if possible, to the report stage, and, if I find, on further investigation, that we cannot meet such a situation as that which the honorable member has brought before us, I shall move to recommit the Bill, and make such’ amendments, as the Committee in its wisdom considers necessary in the circumstances.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Power to supersede quarantine measures under State Acts).
.- This clause raises the question whether the Commonwealth has power to supersede State Acts. i hope we have.
– We do not want another fiasco like that which occurred in connexion with the influenza epidemic.
– We do not. The Commonwealth should be the supreme authority in these matters, but I have doubts as to whether we have the power to supersede quarantine measures under State Acts. If we had sought to exercise such a power during the influenza epidemic I do not know how we could have compelled Tasmania to receive visitors from the mainland.
– Or how we could have compelled Victoria to receive visitors from New South Wales during the small-pox epidemic some years ago.
– Quite so. I do not know whether the Minister (Mr. Greene) is relying upon a recent decision of the High Court, but I hope it will be found that as the outcome of that decision we have this power in respect of not only health matters, but many other important considerations. If we have, then the fights that many of us put up in connexion with our referenda proposals were necessary.
– I do not wish to labour this question, but I hope that I have not been misunderstood. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) says that, if we have the power which we seek to exercise under this clause, then all the referenda proposals were more or less unnecessary, I am led to remind him that the attitude which we take up can be right in regard to only those specific powers which the Constitution vests in the Commonwealth Parliament. Section 109 of the Constitution provides that -
When a law of a State is inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth, the latter shall prevail, and the former shall, to the extent of theinconsistency, be invalid.
That applies only to those matters in respect of which we have the specific power to legislate.
– And we have specific power to legislate in regard to quarantine.
– Yes. Paragraph ix. of section 54 of the Constitution gives us power to legislate with respect to “ Quarantine.” The paragraph consists of the one word “ Quarantine.” I hope, consequently, that th is will be found to bea valid and effective provision.
– The Minister, in submitting this clause, is relying on that section of the Constitution which gives the Commonwealth the power to make laws with respect to quarantine. No doubt we have such a power. There is, however, a very much wider question to be considered, and that is as to whether the States have not the right to protect the health of their own people. That question has been tested rather freely. I was in Victoria when an outbreak of small-pox occurred in New South Wales, about the year 1913, and I have a very vivid recollection of the Government of this State refusing to allow any one to come in from New South Wales. Despite this Bill, the same position will arise if a virulent disease breaks out in anyState. In such a case, the Governments of all the other States will very properly take whatever measures they think necessary to protect the health of their own people. I would, therefore, urge the Minister not to rely too strongly on this power. I hope that when we reach a later clause he will see his way clear to provide for such an amendment as a Select Committee, representing all sides of the House, has felt it to be its duty to recommend.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Landing places for air craft).
.- The penalty for a breach of the provisions of this clause is £500. In most other cases, provision is made for imprisonment as well as the imposition of a penalty for offences against the principal Act. I should like to know why imprisonment is not provided for in this case.
– I have not given any serious consideration to the question raised by my honorable friend. I presume that it has been considered that a monetary penalty in some cases would be sufficient, while in other cases it has been left to the Court to determine whether or not, in the circumstances, imprisonment should be ordered.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 21 agreed to.
Clause 22 (Liability of owner or agent for expenses ofquarantine).
– I do not wish to cover the ground that has already been traversed, but I would ask the Minister to postpone this clause, and to consider the points that have been raised in regard to it.
– I propose to carry the Bill to the report stage, and if, on consideration, I find that it is desirable to amend this clause, I will move for its recommittal.
– If the honorable gentleman does not think it desirable to move for the recommittal of the clause, it will be open to any honorable member to take that action ?
– If any honorable member is not satisfied, he will have an opportunity, when we reach the report stage, to move for the recommittal of the clause.
– The Leader of the Country party (Mr. McWilliams) must be “ child-like and bland,” since he is prepared to accept such an assurance from the Minister. As an old parliamentarian, he must know that if the Ministry are not prepared to agree to the recommittal of the clause, he will have no better chance of securing its recommittal than he has of walking to Tasmania.
– If we have the numbers, we can do anything.
– Certainly ; but what chance shall we have of securing the recommittal of this clause if the Government are opposed to that action being taken? I point out to the honorable member that, if a vote is not taken now, he will miss his opportunity.
– I take it that there is no reason to fear what the honorable member for Maranoa has just been suggesting. I was surprised, however, at a certain statement of the Minister concerning the recent outbreak of influenza. It came as news to me to learn that the Commonwealth Government had paid the whole of the expenses incurred in connexion with the quarantining of ships plying between the mainland and Tasmania, and that they had paid also the expenses of individual passengers on those vessels. I would remind honorable members that persons travelling to Western Australia who were quarantined at Port Augusta had to pay at the rate of 10s. per day. The conditions as between Tasmanian internees and Western Australians were similar. The Governments of those two States had temporarily run amok. They insisted on the observance of certain quarantine conditions. It comes, therefore, as a shock to learn that, while Western Australians were compelled to pay the Government 10s. per day for the provisions existing in the camp of detention at Port Augusta -for such it was originally, at any rate - Tasmanians had all their expenses paid. They were put on board ship and taken down the Bay, and their maintenance was made a charge on the Commonwealth Government. The whole thing is unfair, and, had the circumstances been known at the time, there would have been a considerable stir raised in this House on behalf of Western Australian travellers. I speak feelingly, for I was among those who had to pay 10s. per day at Port Augusta. Had I known the facts, such as have now been made public, I would have had much more to say at the time.
– You might get your money back now.
– There is not much chance of that. I understand that it is not intended at present to proceed with this measure beyond the report stage, and that an opportunity will be afforded for the recommittal of the clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 23 and 24 agreed to.
Clause 25 -
Section seventy-five of the principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1) thereof the words “ in the case of small-pox “ ;
by inserting in sub-section (1) thereof after the word “ vaccinated “ (first occurring) the words “or inoculated with any prophylactic or curative vaccine “ :
by inserting after the word “vaccinated” (wherever elsewhere in the section occurring) the words “ or inoculated”; and
by inserting in sub-section (2) thereof after the word “vaccination” the words “ or inoculation.”
Section proposed tobe amended -
A quarantine officer may in the case of small-pox require any person subject to quarantine or performing quarantine to be vaccinated, and any person so required to be vaccinated shall submit to be vaccinated accordingly.
Penalty: Five pounds.
A quarantine officer shall not require any person to be vaccinated unless in his opinion vaccination is necessary for the protection of persons subject to quarantine or performing quarantine, or forthe prevention of the spread of the disease of small-pox.
. -This amending clause raises the question of giving the authorities power to compel persons who have been quarantined to be vaccinated or inoculated. Am I to understand that if they have been quarantined in relation to an outbreak of small-pox, they can be compulsorily inoculated against any and every disease, as: the authorities may see fit?
– The intention is to vaccinate solely against the disease in regard to which persons have been quarantined.
.- In the event of a future epidemic, have the Government arranged to make available immediately, and in adequate quantities, proper supplies of lymph for vaccination ? When the influenza epidemic broke out in Queensland, proper supplies of lymph were not to be had. In some cases people who were vaccinated almost lost their lives ; others lost their limbs ; while others again, actually died as the result of improper lymph being used. Doctors were vaccinating with lymph which had been taken from a calf only six days previously. I know that a case of anthrax occurred in that manner. It was shown that, instead of the lymph having been preserved in glycerine for about two months, and retained in cold storage for three months, it had been taken almost direct from a calf which had been running in a stock-yard, where, some time earlier, anthrax cattle had probably been yarded. It is a fact that, in Victoria, the germs of anthrax have remained in the soil of a district for as long as thirty years, and that when stock have been placed in that district, although it has- been unoccupied by cattle for a long while, anthrax has re-appeared. I am familiar with the facts of these cases in Queensland. Vaccination in the manner which I have just described almost caused the death from anthrax of one individual well known to me.
– In what part did these cases occur ?
– I will say in Queensland. In order to assure honorable members that I am speaking of facts, I may say that I was one of those who con tracted anthrax; I nearly lost my life. AndI knew another individual who similarly contracted the disease, and died. As I say, it was proved that the lymph had been taken from a calf about six days previously, without having undergone any process of purification. The community, if theyare to be forced to undergo vaccination against their will, should be protected against that kind of thing.
– I realize the force of the honorable member’s remarks. It is, of course, highly desirable that inoculating agencies should be of the very best. The Commonwealth Government had that purpose in view in the establishmentof the Serum Institute at Royal Park, where we now manufacture our own vaccines. In regard to vaccines for small-pox, we have at present 500,000 doses actually in stock in the freezing chamber connected with the Institute. I hope that honorable members who have not visited this institution will take the earliest opportunity of doing so. It is one of the finest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. We are not only paying expenses by the sale of vaccines and sera, but are reaping a considerable profit. We have already paid off the capital cost of the institution, besides paying our way.
– As a matter of fact, complaint has been made that ‘the Government have done so by provisions in the Tariff.
– For how long does the lymph remain effective?
– The practice of. the Institute is to retain sufficient stocks of vaccines and sera to deal with any outbreak of disease. As these, by effluxion of time, become ineffective, or less effective than they should be, they are destroyed and replaced. We keep a perpetual succession of stocks going, and I assure honorable members that the whole institution is particularly well run.
– The Minister has told an interesting tale concerning the Serum Institute, but he has. not answered the point raised by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser). The Minister has not indicated what has been done, or will be done, to put a stop to practices which have really been tantamount to murder.
Numbers of people who had defective lymph injected into their veins died as a result, and it amounted practically to murder on the part of the Commonwealth authorities.
– The Commonwealth authorities did not supply that vaccine.
– There was none to be secured. It came from the Queensland Government.
– That is one reason why the Serum Institute was established.
– Then, I take it, such things cannot happen again.
– They cannot.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 26 to 28, and title, agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the House of Representatives, inserting new clause 15, and had agreed to the amendment inserting new clause 16, with amendments.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 3rd September (vide page 4208), on motion by Mr. poynton-
Th at this Bill be now read a second time.
.- There is not much to discuss in this Bill. It refers to a lease taken up in1896 by a Mr. Wickham of a group of small islands on the coast of Papua, known as the Conflict Group, with the option of purchase at 5s. per acre. It appears that after the Commonwealth took over the control of Papua, Mr. Wickham applied to exercise his right of purchase, but when steps were taken to prepare the necessary documents it was found that instead of containing 6,000 acres the lease did not embrace more than 1.800 acres.
– The Executive Council of Papua claimed that the islands contained 6,000 acres, while Mr. Wickham contended that his lease did not cover more than 3,000 acres, but a survey showed it did not embrace more than 1,800 acres. It was this dispute which caused the delay.
– At any rate, I understand that since then he has been endeavouring to get the freehold of the land in accordance with the terms of his original lease from the British Government, but has been prevented by the provisions of the Papua Act, which came into force in 1906, and prohibited the further alienation of any land in Papua. I understand that the matter was referred to the then Attorney-Genera], now Mr.Justice Isaacs, for an opinion, and he held that although Mr. Wickham had no legal claim to secure the freehold of this island, because of the legislation passed by this Parliament, from a moral and equitable point of view he was entitled to it.
– He said that what had happened practically amounted to a breach of faith on the part of the Commonwealth, which could only be remedied by an Act of Parliament.
– I am opposedto the alienation of any land in Papua, but seeing that the agreement was made by Mr. Wickham with the British Government prior to the Commonwealth assuming control of Papua, it is only right that he should be permitted to convert his holding into a freehold, if he so desires. I understand that there is nothing else contained in the Bill, but I can only agree to its passing on the condition that it is not to be taken as a precedent, and that there shall be no further alienation of Papuan land.
.- I agree with what the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has just said, but I would like to know where the Bill is limited to this one particular case
– I can assure the honorable member that there is no other case.
– With that assurance, I am prepared to let the Bill go, because it is only an act of justice to pass it.
– It would be extraordinary to leave one freehold in Papua amongst so many leaseholds.
– I presume there are plenty of freeholds in Papua which were secured before our Act of 1905 prevented any further alienation. We should do justice in this matter, particularly when one of our eminent Judges advises that this legislation should be passed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment.
Debate resumed from 10th September (vide page 4442), on motion by Mr. Poynton -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- Some weeks ago, when this Bill was previously before us, I raised the question of taking a wealth census along with the ordinary census. Honorable members who were in this Parliament in 1914-15 are aware that the Government of the day took a wealth census, in order to ascertain exactly how the people of Australia stood in the matter of assets which might be used for the prosecution of the war, and, prior to speaking on the second reading of this Bill previously, I had telephoned to Mr. Knibbs and asked him whether his Department would raise any objection to the taking of a wealth census along with the ordinary census.. He wrote to me in reply as follows: -
Withreference to our conversation this morning, I would like to say that both I and my census staff have had under review the possibilities of taking a thorough-going wealth census. You will remember that the previous one was of a somewhat limited character, owing to the extreme urgency of the situation. Our experience was that, despite the threats of prosecution, the response was very partial, and
I can quite understand that you think the occasion of a delivery of schedules to each individual is an opportunity which should not be missed of distributing questions regarding wealth.
First of all, it would be necessary that the wealth census should be dealt with quite independently of the population census, even if the slips are distributed at the same time, and we should have to get the population census dealt with immediately and out of the way before going on with the other matter, viz., the wealth census.
In order to succeed with the wealth census it would be necessary for the returns to be made through the post, as the expense of retaining the services of collectors while that was answered (in addition to the answering of the population census questions) would be prohibitive. Further, persons would certainly not give information about their financial position to the ordinary staff collectors, and that puts the question of using the class of collectors we are intending to use out of the question. It is for this reason that the answers would have to be returned through the post, and confidentially to the Statistician, somewhat in the same manner as income and land tax returns are now furnished.
The experience in the Taxation Department, which handles returns from a mere fraction of the population, is that it is an expensive business, and one in which evasion is to a great extent practised. It is probable that persons will not make true returns even to the Statistician, because they would be under the impression that comparisons would be made between their statements to the Statistician and those to the Taxation Department, and probably nothing would convince them to the contrary.
Might I add here that a greater number of people would probably make true returns in a time of national peril than they would make in time of peace, and that, in consequence, less reliable results could be expected now than at the census of 1915. The data at the last wealth census (war) showed that quite a considerable number of people did not furnish returns, especially, if I remember rightly, in Western Australia, and we should have, therefore, to make the compulsion of returning the paper through the post a very serious one, and one in which the onus would lie on the person of seeing that the return reached its destination, say, by registration at a post-office. This would, of course, increase the cost.
Of course, statistics to insure a real knowledge of the distribution of wealth could be had by such a wealth census, but will not the income and land tax returns give us, so far as the wealthier classes are concerned, all necessary information? These are now being improved by Mr. Ewing, and he is taking into account our requirements in his new statistical compilations.
If you wanted only an estimate of the aggregate wealth of Australia, I believe we could meet the requirements by means of the inventory method, which, you will remember, was sketched out in the report; in fact, the inventory method is probably, on the whole, as good, if not better, than the other. We have also some check through probates. I might say, also, that we are intending to make an inventory estimate in connexion with the population census, the point of time we propose to use being the 30th June, 1920 - five years from the date of the previous inventory estimate.
General census experience shows that it is undesirable to use two sets of returns, one only of which must bo posted and the other delivered to a collector. I am not sure that you realize the extent to which many persons are capable of failing to do the intelligent thing, even if the wealth census form were marked, “To be posted only.”
Already we are getting the printing of the forms (copies of which I am sending you) carried out, because some of them have to be despatched within the next few days to their destinations, in order to be in time, and it would be practically impossible in this case to send the wealth forms with them;hence even in distribution we could not quite meet the case of simultaneous distribution.
For this and other reasons, I am inclined to think that if the Government desires to take a wealth census it ought to be done quite apart from the population census, and, preferably, not within one year, as we will be tremendously occupied on the arrival of the answers to the population census queries.
According to Mr. Knibbs, it is doubtful whether we should proceed with a wealth census now; but there is no doubt of the need for one.
– We had one a little while ago.
– It was five years ago, and statistics, to be of any value, must, be capable of comparison.
– (What came of that wealth census? Of what benefit was it ?
– Of very little benefit, if the honorable member means revenue by way of increased taxation. A wealth census, however, allows the whole community to know how the wealth of a country is distributed. I took the trouble the other day, when we were considering the Income Tax Bill, to give some figures I had worked out from the wealth census returns compiled by Mr. Knibbs five years ago. Out of a population of 5,000,000, according to Mr. Knibbs, 2,191,945 persons filled in and returned wealth-census cards, and of that number 1,285,190, or about 60 per cent. of those who sent in returns, had practically no assets. We may safely assume that at least 99.5 per cent. of the community under sixteen years of age has practically no assets. Some, of course, may have a few pounds or a few shillings in the Savings Banks; but only the children of wealthy parents are likely to have property, possibly made over to them for the purpose of evading the income and other taxation.
– Properties cannot be divided for that purpose amongst persons under sixteen years of age.
– At any rate, the greater part of those with practically no assets are probably children; and it is well known that the. poorer section of the community show the largest families.
– A person under twenty-one years of age cannot have a banking account.
– Thatis not so. There are hundreds and thousands of children and minors with Savings Bank accounts.
– My child, at four and a half years, has an account.
– And a child of mine has one. However, we have 3,000,000 persons who did not send in returns, and presumably with no assets, and 60 per cent. of the 2,191,000 who did send in returns are in practically the same position. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), in his Budget papers, on page 20, shows the percentage of total tax assessed. The percentage remains practically stationary, except in the case of incomes of £10,000 and upwards, in which there is an increase. It is said that the rich are becoming richer, and the poor becoming poorer, and a wealth census would reveal the accuracy or otherwise of that statement. My own belief is that a wealth census would prove the statement to be correct. It is shown that in the case of incomes of £200 and under the percentage of total tax assessed in 1915-16 was 3.9, and three years afterwards it had gone up to 4.4; on incomes between £201 and £500, the percentage of total tax assessed rose from 4.9 in 1915-16 to 5.0 in the same period; on incomes from £501 to £1,000, from 6.6 to 7.1 per cent.; in all these cases the increase has been very small; on incomes from £1,000 to £10,000, a decrease from 43.0 to 39.1; and on incomes from £10,000 to £100,000from 18.1 to 25 per cent., a very great increase. It is only right that we should have another wealth census in order to see whether the aggregate wealth is distributed as in 1915, or whether it is getting into fewer hands. Every one ought to be compelled to send in accurate returns, without any evasion. Last Friday the Treasurer told us that the Government are losing hundreds of thousands of pounds owing to persons evading the just payment of taxation, simply because there are not enough investigation officers. I have the greatest confidence in the man at the head of the Taxation Department, and I know that if it is possible to get revenue from those who owe it he will do so. If there are people who shirk their responsibility by not sending in returns, the fact ought to be made known to those of the community who have a struggle to keep their heads above water. Of the estimated wealth of Australia, of £1,216,231,662 in 1915, 40 per cent. of the people whosent in returns owned £1,188,137,031. Then, 906,775 people - that is the difference between the 2,191,945 and the 1,285,190, or 17 per cent. of the total population of the Commonwealth, hold 98 per cent. of the assets, and 83 per cent. of the people not more than 2 per cent. That is why there should be another wealth census. On the other side, that is, the question of the income of the community, 18 per cent. of the people got more than 50 per cent. of the income of Australia, and 82 per cent, got less than half the total income. We learn that only 25 per cent. of the adult males in the community got £3 per week and upwards, and about 5 per cent. of the females were paid that amount.
– Would those figures apply to-day?
– Not so far as the £3 per week is concerned. Some are obtaining, perhaps, £4 per week, but this does not place them in the same relative position as in 1915 with £3 per week. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has argued that the income tax exemption should be raised so as to place those people in the same relative position as they were then, but I do not think that an exemption of £156 would have that effect. It is possible that only 5 per cent. of. the females are receiving over £156 per annum. As to the ordinary adult male workers, I think that more than 25 per cent. are, probably, receiving more now, but, even then, they are not in as good a position as before, owing to the decrease in the purchasing power of the sovereign. In regard to wealth, we ought to have returns much the same as in connexion with the Customs Department, showing increases or decreases year by year, because statistics are only valuable by contrast. I had intended moving an amendment providing for a wealth census, but the difficulties pointed out by Mr. Knibbs are insuperable. I do not wish to speak disparagingly of the collectors employed - there are many good men amongst them - but, as a whole, they are not such as we could intrust with returns of the kind. We ought to know what is the trend of the wealth, and a census might be taken every five or ten years. We would be acting unwisely if we allowed a few people in the community to build up huge assets, and permitted a very large section of our people to struggle along and merely exist. I trust the Government will not lose sight of this; and, if the Taxation Commissionwhich has been appointed can obtain further information upon this question, to showby whom the aggregate wealth of the Commonwealth is held, the information will be of service, hot only to Australia, but to the people in other parts of the world.
– I do not intend to take up much time in replying to the statements which have been made in connexion with theprovisions of this Bill. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor)was speaking on aprevious occasion, he raised some points which he has not mentioned to-day, and on which I have obtained some information.It is impossible, of course, to be absolutely accurate in connexion with the census.
– The Minister will agree that the point I raised to-day was an important one.
– It is a matter that can be considered later. The Leader of the Opposition asked whether the incomes of certain persons could be made available by indicating them by numbers.
– Yes; like Sir Alexander Peacock did in the State Parliament. Statisticsare now being compiled by Mr. Ewing giving the incomes of those between certain limits.
- Mr. Ewing and the Commonwealth Statistician have conferred, and are endeavouring to so compile returns that the greatest possible amount of information willbe given consistent with the necessary confidential and secret character of the information. I think that meets the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Partly. The return I quoted, and which was also quoted by Sir William Irvine, suggested that numbers from 1 up to 262 should be used in the case of individuals or companies, showing the amount of income derived in the years 1914, 1915, 1916, but not in groups.
– The next point raised by the honorable member was in regard to information concerning families. The reply I havereceived fromtheGovernment Statistician is to the effect that provision has already been made on the census form for obtaining exact particulars asto the number ofdependent children classified according to theoccupation of the father.
The honorable member also referred to the number ofpersons in receiptof£ 1 per week, and said that seven-eighths of the female workers in the community were not earning much more than £1a week. I am informed that this inference is not correct, and that the honorable member must have mis-read the statistics or included wives of many people who show no income at all in returns. The returns referred to all females, and included the cases of married women with small incomes of their own.Forthe quarter ended 31st December, 1919., the average wage for an adult female worker was 37s.1d., and at the date of the war census 27s. 2d., so that there has been an increase of 10s. per week. Iamglad it isnot the intention of the Leader of the Opposition to move an amendment inCommittee. I can assure him that the matter to which he has referred to-day will be carefully considered with a view to seeing if his suggestion can be adopted later on.
Question resolved in theaffirmative.
Bill read asecond time.
Clauses 1 to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Occupiers to observe secrecy):
-Under the original Act provision is made for the census returns tobefilled in at a certain time in the evening. It is now provided that a collector shall assist in compiling returns. The Government Statistician kindly supplied me with a copy of thesamplereturns to be used, which enabled me to see whatthe Department propose doing. Section 24 of the principal Act reads -
Noofficer shall,except as allowed by this Act or the regulations, divulge the contents of any form filled up in pursuance of this Act, or any information furnished in pursuance of this Act.
We are now going to bind the occupier to secrecy in connexion with individual forms, and Iamnot sure as to how far we can goin that direction. We can bind an officer of the Department, but I do not seehow wecan so bindan occupier of a dwelling. I can quite understand the necessity for secrecy in connexion with a wealth census, but I do not see why there should be any such provision in relation to ordinary statistics, because the occupier of a house would not hesitate in disclosing that his name was John Smith, that he was a builder, that he was married, and that he had so many children. Surely that is not information that any one would hesitate to divulge ?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10, and title, agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, and passed through its remaining stages.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is only a short measure of a technical character. Under the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Lands Act of 1918 provision is made for the recovery of compensation in connexion with land acquired for railway purposes. The Act deals with the method of determining the compensation for the land leased, and under section 12 it is provided that in the event of a dispute between the Commissioner and a claimant as to the amount of compensation payable, the Minister may refer the matter to a Justice of the High Court, who shall act as arbitrator, and whose decision shall be final and conclusive, and without appeal. Section 15 of the Act provides -
For the purposes of this Act, the provisions of the law of the State of South Australia relating to arbitration shall apply as Jar as applicable to anyarbitrationunder this Act.
The position isthata Justice ofthe High Court may be appointed to act as arbitrator, but when he acts as arbitrator he is subject to the State law. According to a State Act of 1891, he would be brought under the control of the State Supreme Court for disciplinary purposes in connexion with arbitration matters. It is considered undesirable that that should be so, and we are, therefore, amending the law by amending section 15 of the 1918 Act by adding the following proviso -
Provided that the jurisdiction and powers ot any Court or Judge under that law shall be exercisable exclusively by the High Court or a Justice thereof.
This will enable a Justice of the High Court to be controlled only by the High Court or a Justice thereof.
– How did this discrepancy arise ?
– The Government were anxious at the time to get the Bill through, and the matter was overlooked.
– It was not our party that was responsible.
– No; the Act was passed in 1918. There is another minor amendment of which I have given notice, which relates to section 4 of the principal Act. The agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of South Australia and Western Australia makes provision for granting to the Commonwealth the land in certain areas on each side of the railway line, and under the Act plant, buildings, &c, are included in the land vested in the Commissioner. When it comes to a question of determining a lease, so far as the land specified is concerned, the Gazette notice is sufficient, and the words at the end of the section are unnecessary. The matter was brought under the notice of the Government by the Home and Territories Department, who suggested that the Act should be amended.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That after clause 1 the following new clause be added: - “ 1a. Section four of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railways Lands Act 1918 is amended by omitting the words ‘and the land so specified shall be deemed to be vested in the Commissioner ‘.”
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration of the Deputy of the Governor-General’s message) :
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of the Consolidated Revenue Fund be made for the purposes of amendments providing for the salaries of the members of the Board of Management in a Bill for an Act to amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902-1918.
This Bill originated in the Senate, and as that Chamber has no constitutional power to appropriate money, the measure has been sent to this Chamber with the salaries of the members of the Board of Management left blank. This appropriation is necessary to enable me to move when the Bill is in Committee to insert in the blanks the amount of salary to be paid to the members of the Board.
.- Will it be possible to alter the amounts provided for ?
– Yes, by reduction.
– Does this resolution fix the amount of the salaries 1
– No; it is the usual general message of appropriation, but I .shall move, as I indicated yesterday, that a salary of £2,000 shall be paid to the Chairman, and £1,500 to each of the other two members of the Board.
– Mr. McLachlan, on page 91 of his report on the Public Service, recommended that the salary of the Commissioner should be £1,750, and of one Assistant Commissioner, £1,200. I wish to place on record at this stage tha6 recommendation, and draw attention to the fact that the Government are proposing to pay much higher salaries.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Debate resumed from 5th October, vide page 5301, on motion by Mr. Groom’, -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I ask leave to make a personal explanation. When I was addressing the House yesterday the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) asked by interjection whether the provision in the Bill that if a recommendation of the Commissioner to the head of a Department was not adopted by him, it might be brought under the notice of the Minister, and finally under the notice of Parliament, was recommended in the report of the Economies Commission. I said that I thought that the Economies Commission was favorable to the proposal ; but I find that that recommendation is not contained in its report. In paragraph 33, however, the Commission specifically mentioned the necessity for cases of unnecessary and indiscreet expenditure being brought under the notice of Parliament and the country.
:- Some of us have had a fair amount of experience of the working of the Public Service Act under one Commissioner, and I think we are entitled to ask ourselves where the policy which the Government are adopting will finish. Already this House has dealt with one Public Service Bill relating to the appointment of an Arbitrator. I think the late PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) stated that the Arbitration Court had relieved the Public Service Commissioner of a big percentage of his work; but we learn from Mr. McLachlan that, so far from that being the case, the Court has actually increased the work of the Commissioner. In future the Public Service will appeal to the specially appointed Arbitrator instead of to the Arbitration Court. The measure now before the House provides for the appointment of a Board of Management in the place of the Public Service Com- missioner, and we are promised a further Bill to establish a superannuation scheme for the Service. I hope that scheme will be extended to cover any individual in the community who desires to take advantage of its benefits. There is also to be an amending Bill dealing with the whole Service. I will not say that any one of these measures is unnecessary, but I think we would get on just as well with the Public Service Commissioner as we shall do with the proposed Board of Management. Mr. McLachlan stated, on page 26 of his report -
Consideration lias been given to the question whether, in view of the ramifications of the Commonwealth Public Service, and the magnitude of the interests to he conserved, any advantage would accrue from the establishment of a Public Service Board of three members in place of the present system of control by one Commissioner. The New South Wales State Service Act is administered by a Board of three members. In Queensland, Public Service matters arc dealt with by a Committee of the Cabinet, while in Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia the Public Service is managed by one Commissioner. In new legislation now before the Tasmanian Parliament, provision is made for appointment of a Commissioner, and an Assistant Commissioner. The New Zealand Public Service is controlled by a Commissioner and two Assistant Commissioners, in Great Britain the Civil Service Commission comprises two members, but the functions of this Commission relate mainly to the holding of examinations, and ore not administrative. The Victorian Royal Commission on the State Public Service, reporting in 1017, discussed the general management of that Service, and after full consideration of the arguments for and against the constitution of a Pu’blic Service Board, stated that, although a good deal might be said in favour of the appointment of a Board of three Commissioners, they (the Royal CCommission) were not prepared to recommend any change in that regard. lt may be mentioned that for many years the Victorian Public Service was controlled by a Public Service Board of three members, and that this arrangement was eventually superseded by the present system of control by one Commissioner.
In my opinion, there are strong reasons against alteration of the present system of management of the Commonwealth Public Service. Control by a Board of three members’ necessarily involves a more cumbrous procedure than by a single Commissioner, and consequent delays in settlement of questions of administration. In addition, the important factor of direct and personal responsibility would be sacrificed by the appointment of a Board. Moreover, the circumstances surrounding the Commonwealth Service differ very materially from those of a State Public Service, seeing that the former Service is spread over all the States forming the Commonwealth, necessitating the location of a Public Service Inspector in each State, exercising delegated, powers of the Commissioner. In providing for the future administration of the Public Service Act, it would be disadvantageous to establish a Public Service Board, with the consequent inelasticity of control and the diminution of personal responsibility. The existing system of management by one Commissioner will undoubtedly better meet the requirements of the Commonwealth Public Service, provided that the necessary assistance is given him to carry out the duties and extended functions to be conferred upon him.
The Minister for Works and Railways, in moving the second reading of this Bill yesterday, quoted from the report of the Economies Commission. There is no man in Australia - indeed, there are no halfdozen men - with as full a knowledge of the Commonwealth Public Service as is possessed by the ex-Commissioner, Mr. McLachlan. He was specially chosen -by the present Government for an exhaustive report on the Public Service. Those of his recommendations which were favorable to the Governmentpolicy were quoted by the Minister, but not one word wasquoted of those portionsof thereport in which Mr. McLachlanemphatically opposed the proposal to placethe control of the Service in the hands of a Board of Management.
– Mr. McLachlan was dealing with another problem.
– He dealt with the Board of Management.
– But not from the point of view presented by the EconomiesCommission.
– Ihave differed from Mr. McLachlan in regard to many things he has done, but he is a man for whom I have the greatest admiration and respect; and when he unhesitatingly condemns the proposal to create a Board of Commissioners, Parliament should pause before adopting it. Honorablemembers who are acquainted withState politics know that control of the railways by Boardsof Commissioners has not been altogether satisfactory. As a matter of fact, the Victorian railways were most successfully operated when one Commissionerof outstanding character dominatedtheother two, thus practically giving control by asingleCommissioner. I refer particularly to the period when Mr. John Matheson, and, later, Mr. Thomas Tait controlled the Victorian railway service.On page 91, in the course of his summaryoffindings and recommendations, Mr. McLachlan said -
Establishmentof a Public Service Board of three members wouldbe unwise, owing to inelasticity of control and diminution of personal responsibility.Theexisting system of management byoneCommissioner wouldbetter meet the requirements of the Commonwealth, provided adequate assistance is afforded him (p. 26).
That is an opinion expressed not many months ago by a man in whom most honorable members have the utmost confidence. He continued-
Since 1902 the work of the Commissioner and inspectors has been most onerous and exacting; with the development ofthe Service, and the increased duties following on arbitration,their duties have only been carried out with considerable self-sacrifice and devotion of private time. The present inspection staff is inadequate (p.26).
It is quite possible that an increaseof the inspectorialstaff would achieve all that the Bill seeks to effect. The controlof the CommonwealthPublic Service is now to betaken from a singleCommissioner,and is tobe vested in three membersof a Board which is to be appointed under this Bill. Thatwill have the effect of shelving Ministerial responsibility.
Mr.Gregory. - Under this measure, where shall we place responsibility for any extravagance in the Public Service?
– With all due respect to the Economies Commission, there is not a single member of it who is as capable of managing the Public Service as is Mr. McLachlan.
– I am not suggesting that there is. But, if weappoint a Board of Management under this Bill, and extravagance is afterwards disclosed in our Public Service, how shall we be able to remedy it?
– I come now toparagraph 16 of Mr. McLachlan’s findings and recommendations, which reads -
The whole of theCommonwealth services should be brought under one authority (the Commissioner), and, while arbitral and appellant functions shouldbe vested in him, much of thepresent detailed work of Commissioner and inspectors should be transferred to heads of Departments.
Later on, he says -
The administrationof the Public Service should be intrusted to a Commissioner,and provision shouldbe madefor appointment of an Assistant Commissioner and seven Public Service Inspectors,the staff being thus increased by an Assistant Commissioner and one additional inspector. Appointments of the Commissioner, Assistant Commissioner, and inspectorsshould notbe limited to a sevenyears’tenure, asunderthe present Act, hut Should beterminableat sixty-five years of age. The salaries to beappropriated forpositionsunder the re-organized system ofPublic Service administrationshould be - Commissioner, £1,750 - not £2,000,as is proposed by this Economy Government -
Assistant Commissioner, £1,200; Public Service Inspectors - two at £900, three at£800, andtwo at £700 per annum.
These are Mr. McLachlan’s suggestions inconnexion with Public Serviceadministration.
There is another phase of this question upon which I should like to say a word ortwo. A great many honorable membershave been loud intheir praises of the report of theWhitleyCommission. Now, the Public Service Association has forwarded to every member of this Chamber a circular letter, from which I extract the following: -
The Public Services throughout the world have realized of late the necessity _for appointing Boards of Management to control the various Public Services, and on each occasion arrangements have- been made for the officers to have representation on the Board. The great Public Service of the United Kingdom, upon which the Public Service of this country is supposed to bc modelled, some little time ago appointed a Board on the basis of the Whitley Commission report to control the Public Service. The Board appointed consists of equal representation from the officers of the Service and . equal representation by the Government. Reports to hand from this body show that the results of their labours have proved entirely satisfactory to the Government of Great Britain, and arrangements are now being made in England to extend this principle by having Boards to control the activities oE various Departments. It is proposed to grant .representation to officers on these Boards.
Our request is that we should have but om: representative on the Board of three, whereas in Great Britain they have equal representa- . tion with an independent chairman nominated by the Government. Surely if such a scheme has proved satisfactory in a large Public Service such as there is in Great Britain it is reasonable to assume that it should be equally satisfactory in such as we have in the Commonwealth.
The action of the New Zealand Government is also worthy of note in connexion with this matter. In connexion with the last vacancy which occurred on the Public Service Board of Now Zealand, the Public Service Associations made representations to the Prime Minister of New Zealand with a view to being permitted to nominate a representative to fill the vacant Commissionership. The Prime Minister of New Zealand agreed, and on their Board of Management of three they now have a representative of the officers of the Service.
It is also interesting to note that the Western Australian Government has’ offered to the State public servants now on strike as one of the terms upon which the strike should be settled the appointment of a Board to control the Service, upon which the officers shall have equal representation. This decision was arrived at, it is understood, as a result ‘ of a special meeting of Cabinet.
It is unnecessary to quote further instances of a similar nature, it being sufficient to say that even an institution like the English Admiralty, which is, I think, generally admitted to be a - very conservative body, recently appointed a Board to control questions of general administration as apart from policy and also to deal with wages, conditions of employment, &c, for the staff other than the sea-going forces. On this Board of Control of the Department mentioned, the officers have direct re’ presentation of equal numerical strength to that of the Department, and in an official pamphlet recently to hand from the English Admiralty, the scheme has been very favorably reported upon by the Lords of the Admiralty. Under the circumstances, and seeing that the Whitley Commission Report has been almost universally adopted and generally commended throughout the world, the Commonwealth would have ari excellent opportunity of not only giving effect to this scheme, but, by so doing, they will set an example to the industrial world.
The Prime Minister has frequently referred to the necessity for the employer and the employee getting together for the purpose of dealing with matters affecting industry. If the Prime Minister is sincere in his statements in this direction here is An opportunity presented to him to put it into practical operation.
In connexion with the formation of the Whitley Commission, the Minister of Labour, England, wrote to the leading trade unions and employers’ associations -
It should be made clear that representation on the industrial councils is intended to be on the basis of existing organizations among employers and workmen- concerned in each industry, although it will, of course, be open to the councils, when formed, to grant representation to any new bodies which may come into existence and which may be entitled to representation. The authority, and consequently the usefulness of the councils, will depend entirely on the extent to which they represent the different interests and enjoy the whole-hearted support of the existing organizations, and it is therefore, desirable that representation should he determined on as broad a basis as possible.
The Commission states -
We are convinced, moreover, that a permanent improvement in the relations between employers and employed must be founded upon something other than a cash basis. What is wanted is that the workpeople should have a greater opportunity of participating in the discussion about an adjustment of those parts of industry by which they are most affected.
We venture to hope that representative men in each industry, with pride in their calling and care for its place as a contributor to the national well-being, will come together in the manner here suggested, and apply themselves to promoting industrial harmony and efficiency and removing the obstacles that have hitherto, stood in the way.
The Government intend to appoint a Board of three persons to manage the Public Service of the Commonwealth. I am not in favour of the appointment of three members to any such Board. But certainly the Public Service should have direct representation upon any body which may be thus constituted. One of the members of the Board should be a public servant. That, is a legitimate request to prefer. When the Repatriation
Bill was under consideration in this Parliament, we provided for the representation of returned soldiers upon the Commission which was to be appointed under the authority of that measure. Why should not the same principle be observed in relation to our Public Service? If three members are to be appointed to the Board of Management for our Public Service, one of them should most certainly be elected by the public servants themselves. The adoption of such a course would tend to the smoother working of the Departments. There is in the Bill only one provision to which I desire specially to call attention - I refer to proposed new section 11, which reads -
In addition to such duties as are elsewhere in this Act imposed on it, the Board shall have the following duties: -
– To bring about the millennium.
– The Bill might as well have provided for that. If the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) had read this clause it would have occasioned him great amusement. Perhaps I may be pardoned for bringing it under his notice. It reads - 11. (1) In addition to such duties as are elsewhere in this Act imposed on it, the Board shall have the following duties: -
To devise means for effecting economies and promoting efficiency in the management and working of Departmentsby -
– It reads like a political manifesto.
– Yes. If the heads of Departments do not now perform the duties which I have just enumerated, their services should be dispensed with. The proposed new section is based upon the assumption that they are absolutely incompetent. I would not like to make that charge against the heads of Departments with whom I have come into contact, nor would the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman). TheBill sets out what the Ministry hope to achieve by the creation of the proposed Board of Management. Personally, I believe that we are making a mistake in taking the control of the Public Service out of the hands of one man and placing it in the hands of three men. The Government have affirmed over and over again that closer relations should be established between employers and employees. They now have an opportunity to give effect to the recommendation of the Whitley Commission in regard to their own servants. I regret that this Bill has been brought forward. I believe that instead of making for economy it will make for extravagance. It is proposed that three men shall be appointed as a Board of Management to do work which from practically the inception of the Commonwealth has been efficiently carried out by one man. Believing that this is a mistake, I shall join with honorable members to defeat the Bill, or, failing that, to improve it.
.- I join my leader (Mr. Tudor) in opposing this Bill. I do not know that there is any warrant for the creation of the proposed Board of Management. It seems to me that the Government are going in for the appointment of so many Boards that in this way our expenditure must be very considerably increased. In view of the happenings in almost every part of the British Empire, I am disappointed that the Government, having decided that a Board of Management shall be appointed, have not provided for the representation of the employees on that Board. I venture to say that no Board on which the employees are not represented will be satisfactory. It has been found necessary in almost every case where a Board has been appointed to pro- vide for the representation of the employees.This Board of Management will be called upon to devise means for effecting economies and promoting efficiency in the management and working of Departments, and is to bring about co-ordination of work. Who could be better able to deal with those matters than a member of the Public Service selected by his fellow employees for appointment to the Board? A representative of the employees would be. able to look after the interests of public servants, and also to assist his fellow Commissioners in promoting the efficiency of our public Departments. If economy is to be secured in those Departments, it is necessary that consideration should be given to the views of those engaged in them. We have, for instance, in the Postal Department officers who have been employed there for very many years - officers who have been thoroughly trained, and have a complete grip of the whole of its operations. Such men know better than any one else where savings could be made. But, unfortunately, in the Public Service, as in most other walks of life, no inducements are held out to employees to suggest improvements. I believe that savings could be made in many directions if employees were encouraged to make suggestions. In connexion with most of our Departments, however, it seems to me that when a man sees an opening to effect savings he is afraid to make a suggestion lest by doing so he might give offence to his superior officer, and suffer accordingly. A public servant who was selected by the votes of his fellow employees to represent them on the Board of Management would be one of the most capable men who could be appointed for the purpose.
– Only the smartest man would be elected.
– Yes ; the man possessing the greatest ability and best adapted for such a position would alone secure the appointment. The Public Service might be left to recommend to the Minister what system should be adopted by them to secure representation on the Board. Their representative might be selected by ballot,or otherwise.I am convinced that if the matter were left in the hands of the employees, a most satisfactory appointment would be made. In that way a more desirable appointee would be secured from the Public Service than if the selection were left to the Minister. Under the Bill as it stands, the Minister will select the three members of the Board of Management. In making his choice, he will be guided largely by the recommendations of two or three responsible officers. They will recommend those whom they deem to be best qualified for the position, but, after all, the selection so made will represent the decision of only two or three men, whereas a member of the Board who was elected by the employees would be the choice of the whole’ Service. It is our duty to endeavour to bring about mutual confidence between employers and employees, and we can best insure the smooth working of this Board of Management by determining that one member of it shall be selected by the Public Service as a man in whom they have confidence - a man who they know will have regard to their interests and those of the whole of the Departments.
The Leader of the Opposition has referred to what has been done as the result of the Whitley Commission. The scheme adopted on the recommendation of that Commission has proved a success in the Old Land. In connexion with all our industrial Boards, we provide for the appointment of representatives of the employees, and the day has arrived when we should unmistakably show that we have regard to the rights of employees. By providing for the appointment of a representative of the Public Service on this Board of Management we would show that we recognised that the Public Service of the Commonwealth is in the nature of a co-operative concern. Officers of the various Departments would know that any recommendation made by them to the Board would be of some avail. To-day they have no incentive to make suggestions for the better working of Departments. They carry out the instructions issued to them from day to day, and there their duty ends. They may know that those instructions could be much improved upon, but it is not their duty to say so, and, as a rule, they are . afraid to make suggestions. They have come to the conclusion that it is their duty merely to do the work allotted to them. That state of affairs should be changed. We are constantly talking about the need for efficiency in our public Departments, and it is certainly necessary that we should aim at efficiency. I do not desire to deprecate the good work of the officials. I recognise that splendid work has been done, and that the men are prepared to do even better work if they are allowed a voice in the management. I hope, therefore, the Minister will recognise the necessity of allowing our public servants to appoint a representative to the Board of Management. The duties of this Board will be numerous and important. It is, as I have said, to devise means of effecting economy and promoting efficiency in various ways.
– What has the exCommissioner been doing all these years?
– He admits the necessity of having some one associated with the Public Service Commissioner.
– Did he recommend the appointment of a Board of Management ?
– He recommended the appointment of a Commissioner and an Assistant Commissioner.
– I am inclined to think that a Commissioner with an assistant who was familiar with the whole of the ramifications of our public Departments might meet the case; but, if a Board of Management is to be appointed, the employees shouldbe represented on it.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– The Board will be charged with the responsibility of devising means of effecting economies and promoting efficiency in the management of the various Departments. This is a very important function. Personally, I am against the appointment of a Board of Management. I do not think that course necessary; and, moreover, as the Chairman will receive £2,000 a year, and the other members of the Board £1,500 each, the expenditure, as compared with the salary of the Public Service Commissioner, will be very considerably increased, at a time, too, when we should be endeavouring to effect economies throughout the Service. I am not too certain that the Board, if appointed, will do all that is expected of it in the interests of the Service, because its three members will be appointed by the Government. In sup port of this it has, of course, been urged that the Board will stand towards members of thePublic Service in the same relation as an employer to his employees. This contention was made in another place; but, so far as my knowledge goes, employers in all parts of the Britishspeaking world have come to the conclusion that it is in the best interests of all concerned to appoint one of their own employees on these Boards of Management, as then the ideas in employees are at once reflected in the conduct of an undertaking. There is much to recommend this course. A man who has grown up in the Service understands all its details of working, and is in a better position to advise as to the best line of action to be taken, whereas a man who has not had this experience will probably overlook many important points. If a member of the Public Service is appointed to this Board of Management, he will be in touch with the employees generally, and be able to make important recommendations in the best interests of the Service. It does not at all follow that a representative of the Public Service on the Board would, in effect, be an employee of the public servants, and be expected always to do their sweet, will. But even if there is something in this contention, the Government would have their two members on the Board, and no harm could be done, because their nominees would always be able to outvote the representative of the public servants. From this point of view, therefore, no serious objection can be urged to the appointment of a representative of the employees in the Service on the Board. On the contrary, I think that nothing but good will be the outcome. I understand that the Public Service in New Zealand has the right of appointing one of its members to a similar Board.
– To a Board of Management ?
– Yes, so I understand.
– Have they an elected representative ?
– Yes. As I have already pointed out, this principle is recognised in all bigbusiness undertakings. Iunderstand this measure is the forerunner of another Bill to be introduced shortly for the purpose of amending the
Public ServiceAct, and so it is not my intention to delay the House by debating this Bill at amy length.
Mr.Groom. - It is proposed to introduce a comprehensive measure, dealing generally with the management of the Public Service.
– I think sucha measure is very necessary. Many matters affecting the Public Service require attention without delay, and when that particular Bill is before the House, honorable members will have opportunities, , not available to. them on this Bill, to discuss questions affectingthe Public Service generally.
– Arewe not putting the cart before the horse; that is to say, should not we have the principal amending Bill first?
– I agree with the honorable member. It would be much better if we dealt with that Bill first, for then we would know what was intended to be done in regard to the future management of the Public Service, and be in a betterposition to deal with this measure. But, unfortunately, we are called upon to discuss this Bill providing for a Board of Management before we have the measure to amend themain Act, which has been expected for a considerable time,and in connexion with which important questions, among others, that of furlough, will have to be decided. If we had that Bill before usnow we could deal with it, and then know whether or not there was any necessity for thismeasure.I do not think there is.
– The other is themore important Bill.
– Just so. This is only an offshoot ofthe principal amending Bill to come before us. Ihope the Minister will give consideration to the suggestion I have made; and, if the Bill goes into Committee to-night, he will be prepared either to move an amendment himself or accept one, for it is my intention to testtheCommittee on the question of allowing the Public Service to select one of its members for appointment tothe Board.
– My honorable friend thehonor- ablemember for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has anticipated remarks which I had intended to make as to the piece-meal characterofour legislation. When we are called upon, as in this Bill, to deal with the PublicService, we should deal with the Service as a whole. I strongly urge the desirability of one comprehensive measure being brought before the House. I cannot see my way clear to support the present Bill, because no reasons whatever, that appeal to me as valid, have been urged in support of the appointment of a Board of Management, though it is quite true, as the Minister has said, that this Bill comes to us upon the recommendation of members of the Economies Commission.
Mr.RichardFoster. -And what about them ?
– As against the recommendation of the EconomiesCommission there is a recommendation of Mr. McLachlan, a man whoseopinion I value very highly,for his is the view of a man with a very great deal of experienceon this subject. I do not thinkthere isany honorable gentleman in this House who has had anything to do with. Mr. McLachlan and has not been impressed by his abilityand experience, his extraordinary fairness,andanxiety todo the right thing. By reasonof his special qualifications, he was appointed to inquire intothis very subject, and make a recom- mendationto this Houseas tothe management ofthe Public Service. And he has inthemost definitelanguage declaredthat it is undesirable to have a Board of Management. On the contrary,heurges control by a Commissioner as the wiser system. To the best of my recollection, we had a Board of Management of three for the PublicService in Victoria, with the result that its members fell into the ordinary groove and practically became a branch and Department of the Public Service; no innovations and no ideasof economy were forthcoming, with the result that the Boardsystem was abandoned in favour of that which now obtains, namely, control by a singleCommissioner. The experience of Australia justifies the belief that management by a Commissioner is better. This view is confirmed by Mr. McLachlan, with much experience athis back. He has no personal interest, but the public welfare, to serve, and, therefore, we should be prepared to listen to his advice in this matter. Indeed, I venture to say that we dare not disregard his advice. More than that, he has definitely stated his views as to the character of men to be employed, and the salaries to be paid; and these salaries are below those suggested by this Bill. My view is that a Board of Management will get into a groove. Better results may be expected from the 23resent system, with the appointment from time to time of three expert ‘business men. to investigate the general management of the Service, and point to any defects. By this process, we may expect to get new ideas and the benefit of an impartial judgment from men appointed for- a specific purpose, namely, to make investigations into the general management and the possibility of greater economies in the Public Service. I therefore urge that Mr. McLachlan’s advice be accepted. I am greatly concerned over the additional expense which will be involved by the creation of this Board. That expense will not by any means be confined to the appointment of a Chairman at £2,000 per annum, and of two other Commissioners at £1,500 each. There is involved the creation of a department of administration which will entail greater cost than is justified. We should not have piecemeal legislation. The recommendation of Mr. McLachlan cannot be disregarded. It has not been shown that advantages will emanate from the creation of the Board. Economy and efficiency can be brought about by the appointment, from time to time, when thought necessary, of temporary Boards of investigation to be composed of business experts. There is no need for this costly permanent organization. In the circumstances, I cannot support the Bill.
.- We have established a Commonwealth Bank, with branches from one end of the country to the other, arid outside of Australia as well. The Governor has been able to carry on a very successful business by the employment of very large staffs. No one can say that, under the sole control of Sir Denison Miller, the Commonwealth Bank has proved anything but a success. I would like to know why it is proposed to disregard the recommendation of Mr. McLachlan, and to appoint a Board of three. Is it because the Public Service Commissioner has had too great an amount of work to do? If so, we have relieved him. We have provided for the appointment of Boards consisting of employees and heads of Departments to sit around a table, and fix working conditions and rates of pay for every Department. Notwithstanding that, we aro asked to appoint an Arbitrator to administer the Service, whose salary will amount ‘ to £2,000 per annum, and on top of that, this Economy Government propose still another Board, which will cost, in the matter of salaries alone, £5,000 per annum.
– Will there be any end to these appointments of Boards ?
– No doubt, the Government will come in next session with a proposition to appoint another Board to investigate the administration of this one. There will be a new Department created which, as the. years roll on, will develop and become in itself a huge branch of the Service. If all the Departments are to be run by Commissioners, what is the use of the Ministry? Surely the Ministers and the heads of Departments have some responsibility for their Departments? What have Ministers and heads of Departments been doing that it should now be deemed necessary to appoint this Board? The position is tantamount to a vote of censure upon them. Taking the members of the Public Service as a whole, they are the worst paid individuals in. the community. Unless we are prepared to pay good wages we cannot hope for efficiency. When a man employed in the Service perceives that outside employers are paying higher wages, he loses his incentive to do his best, and, eventually, if the public servant can secure an outside job, we lose him. To illustrate that point, I may mention the case of the secretary of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. That gentleman has been in the Service for some years, and is now about to leave, because he can do better for himself outside. Here he has no “ pull,” no influence, and he has had to remain where he was put without being able to advance himself. I trust that honorable members will realize that their agreement with the principle contained in this Bill will involve them in the creation of another costly Department to duplicate the work of. the Commissioner and the heads of Departments and Ministers. We have increased the number of Ministers during the past few years, chiefly because their work has greatly grown. Surely they, together with the heads of Departments, should be capable of insuring economy and efficiency in the Service. There is no need for this Bill. Can we look for any real economy as a result of its being placed on the statutebook? The question whether good will follow its passage must depend to a large extent upon the personalities of the Commissioners. Very likely, some of the present chiefs of Departments will be appointed to the Board. But, if they cannot bring about economy and efficiency in their present offices, how can we expect them to do so if we merely call them Commissioners and pay them higher salaries? I shall support the proposal of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), who desires that employees in the Service shall be given representation on the Board. I trust that this measure will not be treated as a party matter, but that it will be rejected on its lack of merits.
– Having listened to the speeches delivered on this measure, honorable members may well ask themselves, “ Where is the Public Service drifting?” There are in the Service of the Commonwealth approximately 34,000 permanent and temporary employees. Is that number insufficient? No one will say that it is. Yet, one hears grumbling on every hand. In the great Telephone and Postal branches, for example, there is considerabledissatisfaction. Any business man in Melbourne or Sydney, or in many country centres, will confirm that, and will say that the services were never worse. As for conditions within the Department, one has only to ask employees whether they consider their positions satisfactory. The best and brightest men are leaving us because conditions are no longer attractive, and because they are not as well paid as men in similar jobs outside. We are drifting from bad to worse. In the old days the Public Service was regarded as the “blue ribbon.” Men fought to get into the Service; now they are fighting to get out, and soon there will be only the mediocrities left. Many servants are not getting decent wages, while very many are being overworked. At the same time others have practically nothing to do, which indicates only one of the many factors requiring adjustment. The whole of the Service should be placed on a right footing. But does this measure represent a serious effort to that end ? Wo are given to understand that another, and an important, Bill is to follow. But why this procedure? Is it not a case of putting the cart before the horse? In starting a private business, would a man select his overseers before getting his business going upon a proper basis? Why should there be this feverish haste to push the Bill through and to follow it up with another which should really precede it? Do we not hear it said in the streets,and reported in the press, that Australia is being governed by Commissions? And is this system of government by Commissions satisfactory? Let us examine the stupid position which has arisen in the Service. We virtually pushed out Mr. McLachlan, who was one of the most efficient of our officials; and then we brought him back again and paid him a big fee to show us what a rotten state the Service is in. Obviously, he was the best man the Government could get to give them that advice; but he was not good enough to keep in the Service. And now, apparently, his adviceis not good enough to be accepted, for the Government say that, instead of appointing one, they will select three Commissioners, and that they will pay them more than Mr. McLachlan proposed. For that matter, I believe in paying well. One good man on this job would be worth the £5,000 alone if he could put the Service on a proper footing. How many public servants have we in the Commonwealth to-day ?
Mr.JamesPage. - One man in every ten you meet is a public servant.
– Can we carry them all? Is it fair that numbers of these officials, who are earnest and conscientious, should be debarred from getting a living wage simply because there are too many of them in some particular branch or other? Why have we not the courage to say that the whole situation shall be adjusted? This is no time to put men and women out into the street; indeed, there is never a time to do that. But many would go out to-morrow except that theyaredeterredbecause theyare thesupporters of families, and areafraidto enter thelabour market. Would it not be fair to say that, at any rate, there shall be no further appointments to the Service? A good man, well paid, could closely examine the whole business and close the doors of the Service, and see that it was efficiently carried on without requiring any fresh appointments for five years. Such a course of action wouldbring about a proper state ofaffairs. I am disposed to vote against this proposal because I think it is unnecessary. We have had too many Boards appointed, and the results of their appointment have not been satisfactory. There should be more Ministerial responsibility. We should be able to hold Ministers responsible for the work of their Departments, and if a Minister cannot put his Department in order, we should get one who will do so. We are drifting into a state of chaos in the Public Service of this country. We are told thatthere is one public servant for every ten taxpayers, but if we take into consideration the fact that there are many persons outside the Public Service performing services forthe Government, for whichthey are paid, we shall find that the proportion of public servants to taxpayers is more nearly one to five. Nosensible man will say that we can stand this kind of thing much longer. The sooner we take a pull the better. I am gladthat this measureis not being treated as a party matter, because we all aim atthe one goal, which is to do the best thing possible forAustralia. We have the best country on God’s earth, andwe are doing our best to “cruel” it, until people are beginning to say that Australia is a good place to get out of. We grumbleat the high cost of living, but is not the piling up of expenditureon an inefficient Public Service one ofthemost fruitful sources of the high cost of living.
– And taxation.
– Taxation has been necessary to meetthe obligations due to the war, and wecan bear our burden in this regard if we run the country and Public Service on commonsense business lines. Our public servants should be able to feel that there is a reward for the man who tries to do good work. We know that good work and good suggestions are not rewarded, and promotion does not : go : by merit,but byseniority.
– Or by favour.
– Favoritism -and influence cannot be entirely done away with. They will always count for something, because we aredealing withhuman beings. I have felt that good men in the Department which I controlledshould be rewarded, but there was no opportunity to reward them. The heads of public Departments controlling expenditure running into many thousands of pounds do not receive as much as men handling comparativelysmall businesses in -the different capitals of Australia. The same may be said of men in the lower grades of the Public Service. Honorable members will agree with me that the man is foolish who tries to gethis son or daughter into the Post and Telegraph Department atthe presenttime. People come to me, and ask me to recommend their sons or their daughters for positions in that Department, and I tell them that it would be far better for them if they would put them to hard work outside, as it would give them a better chance for the future. That is not as it ought to be.
I am surprised that this Bill should be the forerunner of the principal measure dealing with the PublicService. I never heard ofsuch a thing. It is a case of putting the cart before the horse. I hope that theGovernment will reconsider the matter,and will bring down the principal PublicService Bill atonce.They have obtaineda report on the Service from a man whom they discardedunder the PublicService Act.
SirJosephCook. - We didnot discard him at all.The honorable member should not put it in that way.
– He had to go out of the Service on account of his age. I am not blaming Ministers in the matter, but it was certainly their duty to have proposedan amendment of the stupid Act under which Mr. McLachlan’s retirement from the Service became necessary. I know that when Sir Robert Scott was Secretary to the Post and Telegraph Department, I had to fight Mr. McLachlanfor two years to prevent SirRobert Scottbeing retired from the Service, because he was sixty-fiveyears of age. He was receiving a salary of £1,000 per year, and was entitled, on retirement, to a pensionof £700, and I contended that in the circumstances it was a foolish policy for this country to discard a man like that with his great experience and mental and physical vigour and’ costing only £300 per annum.
– What about men who have to go out at sixty-five, without a pension ?
– There are some men who ought to go out at fifty-five. I have no doubt that the Government have the same object in view in this matter as I have myself, but they have not, in my opinion, proposed the best means to achieve it, and unless some definite argument is submitted in support of the Bill, I shall feel compelled to vote against it.
I have said that this is not a party matter, and there has been no warmth shown in discussing it. I believe that the proposal is badly conceived. I do not object to high salaries for qualified men. It is proposed to give these three Commissioners £2,500 between them.
– No, £5,000.
– It would be better, in my opinion, to get the best man for the job and give him £5,000, and then look to him to put the Public Service in order. What is the position of a Minister of the Crown under the Public Service Act? Even the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), with all his power-
– I have no power.
– The right honorable gentleman has no power, but he arrogates it to himself, and that is not as it should be. I do not say that unkindly, and the right honorable gentleman, I am aware, does many things wisely and well; hut is it not an absurdity that the Treasurer should not have the power to put on a messenger without the permission of the Public Service Commissioner ?
– He cannot dismiss one.
– That is so. A man in any of the public Departments may be guilty of almost any misdemeanour, and yet under the Public Service Act it takes months to get rid of him. That kind of thing shows the necessity for a proper measure dealing with the Public Service. There should be positions in the Service which might he regarded as blue ribbons to which intelligent men might aspire. At one time, a youngster was supposed to- have gained a prize if he got into the Public Service, but now people of common sense consider that a parent is foolish who puts one of his children into the Service.
I did not have the advantage of listening to the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) when moving the second reading of this Bill, but I read the analysis of his speech which appeared in the newspapers this morning. There are many persons doing good work in the Public Service who are underpaid, and there are many others who are overpaid for doing very little. Public servants in the country districts are, in many cases, overworked and underpaid.
– Nearly all the post- masters are in that position.
– Men serving in other Departments are also overworked and underpaid. In many of the bie cities there .are hives of public servants, and people wonder what they can be doing. The system is bad, and that is the difficulty. We have heard of men working in adjoining rooms who send documents to each other registered. We are drifting into a very undesirable position, and for this I do not altogether blame the Government. We have been drifting in this way for the last twenty years,’ and with so much experience of the Commonwealth Public Service the Government should be able to devise some better proposal than this. It would be a better plan to postpone the consideration of this Bill until we have passed the principal measure dealing with the Public Service, as we should then know what we require. The present Act requires to be amended almost out of sight. We should ask the assistance of the public servants themselves. They should have some say in the matter. The time has gone past when men are content to be “ bossed “ and driven like so many sheep or bullocks, and the time has come when they should be given some say in connexion with the business in which they are employed. Any sensible man Will admit that to give men a say in the management of the ‘ business in which they are employed will prevent friction and industrial strife. The public servants are human, and when they see men outside the Public Service doing better than, themselves they naturally protest. It seems to me we are reaching the stage, when the only way in which employees, can protest successf ully is to cause trouble to the public. I should like the Government to adopt an altogether different view of this matter.
– I listened yesterday evening very attentively to the explanation of this Bill by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) in moving the second reading. I have known the honorable gentleman since he came into this House, and I never heard him when he appeared to be more leg-roped or hobbled. His heart was not in the business. No one knows better the growth of the Public Service since he became a member of this Parliament. I have always been against Boards or Commissions controlling Government Departments. In Queensland, many years ago, we had a Board of Commissioners of Railways. They managed the railways for a time, but when they went out, Oh, Lord, what a mess they left behind them ! It took several millions of money to put the railways, into a working condition after they had gone. They made strict economy the order of the day. They built no rolling-stock during their term of office, and they ran things in such an economical way that when their time was up the railways were run to a stand-still.
– As the Post Office Department is now.
– It is very nearly, in the same position. The Minister has not told us why this Public Service Board of Management is needed. Honorable members who were members of the first Commonwealth Parliament will remember the difficulties with which we were faced iu establishing a Public Service, with men from six different States, in each of which a different Public Service Act was in operation. There were differences in the matter of emoluments, retiring allowances, and pensions.
– And, worst of all, there were accruing rights.
– That is so, and our worst experiences in that connexion came from South Australia. The Government at the time were fortunate in selecting a man from New South Wales, who did the pick-and-shovel work of amalgamating the whole of the Public Service, and the superstructure of to-day stands on Mr. Duncan McLachlan’s foundation. At that time some members desired that there should be a Commission of three charged with the management of the Public Service, and the matter was fought out more vigorously than honorable members are fighting this measure. It was eventually decided that there should be but one Public Service Commissioner. The Government of the day did wisely and well in appointing him. I do not blame the present Government or any one else for Mr. McLachlan’s retirement. He was a stickler for the observance of the law. If the law said that a man was to retire at fifty-five, Mr. McLachlan said he had to retire at that age, because the law said so, and when his turn came, and he reached the age of sixty-five years, he put himself out. I say that the Government, later, showed wisdom in appointing him as a Royal Commissioner to inquire into the whole of the working of the Public Service. His- recommendations, are a monument to the thoroughness with which he performed his task. He does not recommend a Commission of three members. He recommends the appointment of a Public Service Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner, and I am sure no honorable member would object to carrying out his recommendation in that respect; but the Government, in order to save their faces in regard to their proposal to appoint a . Board of Management, have provided a schedule of duties for them to undertake. For one thing, they are to effect economies and promote efficiency in management. But I want to know what work the administrative officers of the different Departments will be required to perform if all these duties are to be carried out by the Board? Have they not been lacking in some respects if they have not carried out what the Board is to be asked to do? Have not the administrative staffs endeavoured to effect economies and promote efficiency in management? If not, then some man is required, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) has suggested, to weed them out and replace them by competent officials. One
Tuan could do it more effectively thanthree. I remember .when Sir WilliamLyne was introducing the Estimates which made the first provision for theHome Affairs Department, which is now the Works and Railways Department.
There were no railways at that time, but there was a Works Department. Sir William Lyne said that it was to be a very small Department, which was not to cost more than £2,000 per annum, and that the necessity for its establishment could be well appreciated by honorable members. In my innocence I agreed that the Minister could have such a small provision, but next year that £2,000 had swollen to £10,000, and year after year it has continued to swell, until to-day it is an enormous amount, and it has even been found necessary to follow the advice of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), and “ make two blades of grass grow where one grew before “ - there are now two Departments instead of that one little one, which, nineteen years ago, was going to cost £2,000 per annum. And now, in regard to the control of the Public Service, the Government propose to go one further than the honorable member for Wannon recommended; they intend to “make three blades of grass grow where one grew before,” by creating three Commissioners to do work which one Commissioner has done very well in the past; and, in order to provide an excuse for this unnecessary swelling of the controlling staff of the Service, they insert in the Bill a schedule of multifarious duties for the Board of Management to carry out. If the Government want to give effect to the report of the Economies Commission, there is nothing to prevent them from giving to the Public Service Commissioner, and possibly an Assistant Commissioner, the power to see that the heads of the various Departments effect economy. Business to-day is developing upon the lines of improved supervision and better organization. Every day, small business concerns are amalgamating, with consequent reductions of staffs. I am sure that the Commissioner could do all the work the proposed Board could do.
The Government’s proposal is to appoint three Commissioners, at a cost of £5,000 per annum, to replace the Public Service Commissioner, whose salary is £1,200 per annum; but, even if we paid the present Commissioner £3,000 per annum, and gave him the services of an assistant at £2,000 per annum, I am sure they could do all the work which the Board will be called upon to undertake, and quite as well. No one knows better than honorable members and those who have been in the Public Service how Departments grow. Feed niggers in Queensland on bananas and see how they grow ! That is how the public Departments grow. They grow right out of sight.
I think the Government are ill-advised in bringing forward this measure. They ought to let us into “the know”; they ought to tell us whether the Bill is brought forward for the purpose of providing jobs for defeated candidates.
– An unfair suggestion of that sort is not what one usually expects from the honorable member.
– They tell me that Mr. William Webster is to be one of the Board, and that the Minister (Mr. Groom) is to be another.
– Would they not be two very good men?
– The very best, but not for this job. I think that the Minister, if he is after any appointment, would make a better arbitrator.
– He would be a very good man for that position.
– I have no fault to find with him, and if he takes the job I am sure the Public Service will get a square “ go “ from him. But the £5,000 to be paid to the Commissioners will be nothing to this great Commonwealth compared with the cost of the personal staffs they will require. As the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) has said, they will each require a suite of offices, and I am sure that they will not be found hunting the auction sales for second-hand furniture, but that they will install the very best. Then they will each require a chief clerk, a senior clerk, and a staff of typists, record clerks, and correspondence clerks. We have only to compare the Estimates of the present year with those of past years in order to see how Departments have grown. Instead of the cost of this Board of Management being £5,000 it will be nearer £50,000 next year. The existing Public Service Commissioner’s staff is a very good one. I do not think there is one excess officer in it. Every honorable member has had to thank Heaven for the existence of a Public Service Commissioner. He has saved me, personally, a great deal of trouble which I have been able to place on his shoulders when mothers have come to me in order to get their sons into positions in the Commonwealth Service. The Commissioner has always said that there is no back door or royal road to enter the Service except by merit shown at competitive examinations. The Commissioner has given satisfaction not only to the House, but also to the Service, because to-day there is less grumbling in the Commonwealth Service than there is in any’ State Service.
I do not think that we can do better than follow Mr. McLachlan’s recommendation for the appointment of a Commissioner and an Assistant Commissioner, and leave the controlling staff as it exists to-day. We know what it costs, but if we pass this Bill no one but God could tell us what we shall bc called upon to pay, and He will not tell us. The Minister could not tell us. 1 ask him now what the administrative heads of the different Departments will have to do if the three Commissioners are appointed? They will certainly be relieved of .all responsibility in regard to the control of the work of their staffs and the purchase of departmental requirements.
There is a clause in the Bill providing for excess officers. Evidently the Government in drafting the ‘ Bill had in their minds the possibility of there being wholesale excess officers in the different branches of the Public Service as soon as the Board is appointed.
– If they cannot be transferred from the Department in which they are in excess to another they are dismissed.
– That is exactly what is done now.. If the Public Service inspector recommends that certain officers be classed as excess officers, the Public Service Commissioner makes inquiries. Very often he does not follow the advice of his inspectors, and instead of having these officers dismissed, transfers them to other Departments where their services may be utilized; but, of course, if there is no work for these unfortunate individuals they must go out of the Service.
I want to know why a special Board of Management and a special Bill are required to do this work when all the necessary machinery is in existence, only wanting an impetus at the head to set it running. I am sure that if the duties proposed to be given to the Board were handed over to the Public Service Commissioner he would carry them out as faithfully as he has undertaken his other duties. I say, without fear of contradiction that nobody has “mothered” this Bill up to now except the Minister; on the other hand, every-‘ one has declared it illegitimate and no one will ‘’ carry the baby.” No support from any part of the House has been given to the measure, and the Minister would be well advised to withdraw it, and allow the Public Service to be conducted on the same lines as in the past. The present system has been good enough for us for twenty years, and every one of the States is copying our Public Service Act. In Queensland there was a Public Service Board controlled by the Cabinet, but latterly Mr. Story, at one time ‘Under Secretary for Education, has been appointed Public Service Commissioner, and is following on Commonweal th lines.
.- As at present advised, I feel myself unable to support this Bill. All honorable members are at one, I think, in the idea that our public Departments ought to be run as efficiently and economically as possible. That object we all have in view, and the whole question is whether this Bill will attain it - whether, if the provisions’ of it are carried out, it will lead to the more economical and efficient management of the Public Service. It seems to me that this Bill is quite impracticable, and I can scarcely conceive of it being carried into effect. To begin with, we propose to look around for three men to perform the duties prescribed, and one of these men, as chairman, is to be paid £2,000 a year, and the other two £.1,500 a year each. Where are we to get a man at £2,000 a year who is capable of performing the prescribed duties? There are the duties of organization, of management, of procedure, of the training of officers, and of devising a system of check in all expenditure. It seems to me that a man to fill this office must be a keen business man of wide experience; he must be an expert accountant, and if he has to point out where improvements can be made in the training of officers, he must also be an expert in education. That, I think, is impossible- and it is expected to get it all for £2,000 a year. Where is the man possessing the qualifications necessary for the position? Where is the man of wide business knowledge who is going to leave his present position, in which., presumably, he is getting less than £2,000, to take a position of this kind? There is not a man possessing such qualifications in this community who is in receipt of a smaller salary than £2,000. If such a man is to be found, I say we ought first to offer him the position and be prepared to give him any salary necessary to induce him to accept it. He would be cheap at the money, if he could do all that is expected of him under the Bill. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) shortly indicated some of the duties pertaining to the offices; and, to my mind, it is almost ludicrous that such a list should be made out for the chairman and his colleagues. They have to seek to improve organization, and! to deal with procedure, closer supervision, and - listen to this ! - the “ simplification of the work of each Department, and the abolition of unnecessary work.”
– That all comes under the head of “ proper organization.”
– That may be. The clause dealing with the duties of the Board may be summarized thus: The duty of the Commissioners is to devise means to render the Public Service of the Commonwealth a perfect organization from the point of view of efficiency and economy. That would include everything ; but it is impossible to get a man capable of making the Service perfect. The “ simplification of the work of each De- partment and the abolition of unnecessary work “ would involve on the part of the Commissioners knowledge ofthe technicalities of each. Department. Just imagine the Commissioners’ entering the Law Department, or the Treasury, or the Defence Department, and, after looking into their respective activities, pointing out to the permanent head of each Department wherein the work can be “simplified” and “unnecessary” work avoided.
-Will the honorable member suggest how the present Commissioner doesthat work to-day?
– Does the Commissioner do that work?
– He is expected to.
– I have nothing to do with that at present. I am now dealing with this particular Bill.
– If the honorable member carefully studies the report of the Economies Commission, he will find that each of the proposed clauses in the Bill is based on the experience of what is found to be lacking in the various Departments.
– And I say that for £2,000 a year, or even for £20,000,. it is impossible to get a man capable of doing the work.
– The honorable member was pointing out the impossibility ofthe work being done.
– My proposition is that it is impracticable to put this Bill into operation with anything like decent effect.
– All these objects are proper objects recommended by the Commission.
– We would all like to have our public Departments run perfectly if that were possible ; indeed, it is our duty to devise means to that. end.
– Would the honorable member suggest alternative means to those before him?
– It is not my duty at present to suggest alternative means. I am criticising the means proposed by this Bill.
– I do not object to that.
– We shall shortly have before us another Public Service Bill, when we shallhave an opportunity to deal with those questions; but at present I am pointing out what I consider to be the impracticability of this Bill.
Let us consider the kind of situation that might arise under this measure. The Board goes into a particular Department, investigates, and suggests. According to the Bill, suggestions have to be made to the head of the Department, and he disagrees withthose made. What is the next step ? The Board lays the same proposals before the Minister, who, after consideration, disagrees with the Board and agrees with the permanent head.
What, then, is the situation ? The Board, finding its recommendations turned down by both the permanent head and the Minister, reports to Parliament. What then? ‘Suppose the recommendations are connected with the “ simplification “ of the duties of the Department and the doing away with “ unnecessary work “ ? What is Parliament to do?
– Does the honorable member not see that there must be Ministerial responsibility and parliamentary control?
-That is exactly what I say ; but I believe in concentrated responsibility, not in divided responsibility, unless the latter be absolutely necessary. I am now presenting the situation as I think it would present itself under the Bill very soon. We are asked to do something that is utterly impractical. Paney this Parliament being asked to judge between the Minister and the permanent head, and the Board, who are at variance. Parliament could not do it. This House is not the tribunal to decide matters of the kind. We are not capable of arriving at a decision unless we ourselves go into the particular Department, do exactly what the Board has done, and have all the evidence before us, which is impossible. On the other hand, suppose that the permanent head turns down the recommendations by the Board, and that when it goes to the Minister the latter agrees with the recommendations. Then the permanent head is at once discredited ; he loses his prestige in the Department, and the confidence of those associated with him.
– The same thing applies in any commercial establishment properly managed, and that is how efficiency is gained.
– I should say that in no business run on sound lines would the head bring in an outside Board to criticise the management of one of the departments. The head of a business is in constant- touch with the managers of his departments, and he holds each manager responsible for the economic and efficient management of his particular branch. If the head of the business finds that a department is not being efficiently and economically managed we know what becomes of the departmental manager.
– Surely the head of a business would appoint a man to look after the staff alone?
– What constitutes the impracticability of this measure from my point of view is that we cannot get men having the necessary knowledge of every public Department to carry out the duties of the Board.
– Surely the honorable member does not think that the Public Service Commissioner has a detailed professional knowledge of every Department?
– I am not talking of the Commissioner.
– Still the Commissioner fulfils the functions of control in the Law and every other Department.
– It may be that that is not the proper way to obtain efficient and economical management of our Departments. But I am not dealing with that; I am dealing with the proposal to have a Board of three to carry on those functions. It is absurd to think that we can get three nien in this community, especially in view of the salaries offered, possessed of the requisite knowledge to perform the duties of investigation and determination as to the working of the various Departments.
– Ii is assumed that they will each specialize in a different direction.
– There is a £2,000 a year man, and two £1,500 a year men, the latter, presumably, not so experienced as the former. Probably, as some one has suggested, the two £1,500 a year men will be “under the thumb” of the £2,000 a year man, and the determination in each case will practically be his. I quite agree with honorable members that this is simply embarking on an unknown and uncharted sea, and that great expense will be involved for no adequate return.
If the Bill gets into Committee, there are one or two points with which I am not in agreement and which I shall endeavour to amend. I think the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) suggested that if we had aBoard of Management there should be a representative of the public servants on the Board. I do not agree with that.
– I did not advocate that.
– Some honorable members have suggested that the public servants should be represented.
– Why should they not?
– I shall give my reasons why they should not. This Board, if appointed, is to work, not in the interests of the public servants, but in the interests of the public - their employers.
– If the employees are not represented we will not have an efficient Public Service.
– I believe in the public servants’ interests being conserved; but a man should not be a judge in his own case. This Board, if appointed, is not to investigate the question of reclassification, but its duties will be to see that the work of the Departments is conducted on business-like lines. The object in appointing a Board is to see that the activities of each Department shall pass under the critical review of nondepartmental minds. We are constantly being told that our Government Departments do not adopt business-like methods, because our public servants have not had adequate business training; and that is true, because they enter the Service as boys and get into the departmental routine without having had an opportunity of acquiring outside business experience. The necessity, therefore, exists for bringing from outside some one who has not had circumscribed experience, but a wide business training, and who is able to critically review the activities of all our Departments. That work can be satisfactorily performed only by securing a competent outsider, and that object, so far as the appointment of a Board is concerned, would be defeated if men from inside the Service were selected to criticise the work of their own particular Departments. Like other honorable members, I listened to the explanation of the Bill by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), whose speech was clear and concise, but, I think, unconvincing. I do not think the Minister made out a good case for the appointment of a Board as provided in the Bill, and on the information at present at my disposal it is my intention to oppose its passage.
.- I am sorry the Minister for Works and
Railways (Mr. Groom) has not informed his supporters that they are free to vote on this measure as they desire.
– The honorable member does not expect me to close the debate at this juncture.
– I do not suggest that.
– If I replied it would mean closing the debate.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) made an announcement to that effect last night, and it did not close the debate. The outstanding feature of the Bill seems to be a grave indictment of the Public Service of the Commonwealth .
– Not at all.
– Yes, it. is.
– Then, is not Mr. McLachlan’s report a grave indictment?
– The Bill is certainly a grave indictment, and proves conclusively that there is inefficiency and disorganization in the Public Service. It is an accusation without equivocation concerning the efficiency of departmental heads, and the work of a gentleman who has been applauded by honorable members to-night. If the Public Service is not inefficient, if we have departmental heads who are worth their salt, and if Mr. McLachlan is the man he is supposed to be, the necessity for this Bill disappears. I do not think, and I will not admit for a moment, that the Commonwealth Public Service is in such a state as one would be led to believe by the extraordinary duties which are to be allotted to the proposed Board of Management. At the present time we have departmental heads, administering public Departments, who are receiving £1,000 a year, and upwards. The measure is so important that I intend’ to quote rather extensively from paragraph 11 of clause 5, which sets out the duties of the proposed Board. The Board is to devise means for effecting economy and promoting efficiency in the management and working of Departments by improved organization and procedure-
– Order! The honorable member will not be in order in dealing in detail with the clauses in the Bill. He will have that opportunity when the measure is in Committee.
– Then I shall deal briefly with the principal duties, which include, in addition to those I have mentioned, closer supervision, simplification of the work, co-ordination, economy, limitation of the staff, improvement of the training of officers, the avoidance of unnecessary expenditure, and the establishment of systems of check. If that work is not the responsibility of departmental heads, whose is it? If it is necessary to appoint a Board of three to give effect to these proposals, the Public Service of the Commonwealth must be in a very bad state. I am not prepared to admit that it is. It is most ridiculous to suggest thatthe Service is in such a state of disorganization, and that our public servants are so inefficient that we have to appoint three men, one at £2,000 a year, and two at £1,500 a year each, to do what the Public Service Commissioner and the heads of Departments have failed to ac- complish. I venture to say that if there are not men in the Public Service who can perform these duties, there is no one outside who can. I have faith in the Public Service, and I do not go about the country discrediting it. If we cannot get satisfactory men in the Service to perform the duties set out in the Bill, we cannot get them at all; because it is only training and experience that makes men suitable for performing this important work. What would be theresult if we selected a capable commercial man from Flinders-lane and asked him to make recommendations in connexion with the work of the Defence Department, or of the Department of the Treasury? If there was any Department in which he would feel at home, it would be in the Treasury. If such an officer were placed in the Postal Department from the time His inquiry commenced until he had completed his investigations, be would be. consulting departmental heads and employees, and it is useless to endeavour to hide the fact that an outsider would be incompetent to make recommendations of any value. I am not concerned because it is proposed to pay to theChairman of the Board £2,000 a year, because I think the position warrants a high salary. I cannot see the necessity of having three poorly paid men when one well-paid official would suffice. I do not believe in a system of so-called economy, whereby one man is appointed at £2,000 a year, and two others at £1,500 a year each, because that is not economy at all. Up to the present, every member who has spoken has opposed the Bill, and apparently there will not be sufficient support to secure its passage.
I now come to the question of the public servants being represented on the proposed Board of Management, and. in this connexion, I do not think that we could do better in appointing a Board consisting of one or three members than by selecting them from the Public Service. If the Public Service organizations were to select one member, the Govern- ment would not be able to select a more suitable person, because a man who had the confidence of the Service, and who had impressed his ability so much upon the members of the Service as to warrant his election as their representative, would be a worthy representative. I am not suggesting that every position should be failed on the recommendation of the various Public Service organizations, but it. the Government are determined that there shall be a Board of three, they cannot do better than ask the Service to nominate one man.
– Would not the honorable member advocate three being elected from the Service if they were good men?
– Yes. If it is in the best interests of the country ; but I should say that one is quite sufficient. The Government would be well advised to postpone the further consideration of this measure until the main amending Public Service Bill has been introduced, as that would enable honorable members to deal with the whole question of the Public Service in a thorough and effective manner.
Mr. RICHARD FOSTER (Wakefield) [9.291. - I have listened to the speeches that have been delivered, and I am somewhat disappointed to find that they have been entirely destructive instead of constructive in their arguments. I have as much respect and admiration as has any man for the work of Mr. McLachlan, and I say further, that if he had not been bound by red-tape he would have done much more effective work for the Public Service.
– By red-tape the honorable member means legislation.
– Yes, and red-tape apart from legislation. I call the attention of honorable members to the history of the last seven or eight years. There has been continuous dissatisfaction with the Public Service. We have heard from time to time outside of Parliament, and just as loudly inside Parliament, that the public were not getting fair value for the cost of the Public Service. That has been proved by the investigations which have been proceeding for the last six years, and the results of which are in print. They cost a great deal of money, and some of them led to serious revelations.
– And the reports are not worth the paper on which they are printed.
– That is true, if honorable members are satisfied to talk on the public platform at election time about these things, and then when an effort is made to make the Service efficient it meets with objections, and the Government, who, I believe, are making an honest attempt to remedy the evils are told by honorable members that their proposals will not be allowed to reach the Committee stage.
Honorable members know that for the last six years proposals have been made, particularly from this side of the House, to introduce business principles into the conduct of the Public Service; but they have never come to fruition. In 1914 a proposal was made to create a business side to the Defence Department, and if it had been adopted, and a proper Business Board had been appointed, many millions of pounds would have been saved to the country.
– Was not that recommended in General Hamilton’sreport?
– Of course, it was. But it was proposed by the Cook Government before General Hamilton came to Australia. The report of that distinguished officer was a further reason why Parliament should have been prepared to deal with an important matter affectingthe interests of the country in a very particular way.
– General Hamilton made a practical proposal in regard to one Department.
– That is so; and if a Business Board had been created in connexion with the Defence and Navy Departments, a great deal of money would have been saved. Millions of pounds were squandered because the business transactions of those Depart ments during war time were handled by men who knew nothing about such matters, and did not understand the first rudiments of business.
– They had to do the best they could. When the war started we could not find men who understood these matters.
– Parliament should have found somebody who understood business principles. For years we have agitated for the introduction of business methods into the Public Service, but nothing has come of our efforts. The next best step was to urge the Government of the day to appoint an outside Business Board to investigate the methods of the Public Service. Honorable members know well the result of that investigation.
– The Government never asked for the opinion of the business men in this House who were elected to deal with these matters.
– Those business men were representing the people, and they ought to have been doing their duty. A few of them have been threshing this question in season and out of season, but they have never been able to induce the majority to do what should be done. The business experts who reported upon the Public Service did so without fee or reward, and disclosed alarming conditions in Department after Department. This Bill is, I take it, the outcome of that investigation. I shall reserve most of my remarks for the Committee stage, for I hope that honorable members will at least allow the Bill to get that far.
– The only point in the Bill is as to whether the system it embodies is the best.
– The honorable member seems to be hopeless in regard to the Bill. I am not, although I do not like the measure in its entirety. It proposes to create a Board of Management, and some honorable members have objected to the appointment of a Board of three instead of one Commissioner.
– It is not a Board of Management of the Public Service, but a Board of Management of public business.
-I am coming to that point. Some honorable members have said that they would approve of paying £5,000 per annum to one man who had the proper qualifications. If we can find a man worth £5,000 a year, I too will approve of handing the control of the Public Service over to him.
– Where are we to get that genius ?
– Such men are to be had, but I would be satisfied with one. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) thinks that it will be impossible to get a- man with the requisite qualifications for £2,000 per annum, whilst the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) says that we could not get a better man than Mr. McLachlan, who is .retiring because he has reached the age limit. He was doing the whole of the work for-£l,500 a year, and the honorable member for Kooyong says that we should follow his recommendations. Mr. McLachlan admitted that one Commissioner could not do the work single-handed, and he advocated the appointment of an Assistant Commissioner.
– Well, even Mr. McLachlan says that he would be capable of doing all the duties prescribed ?
– I would not ask him to do them, nor does the Bill propose that any one man shall do them. It provides for a Board comprising a Chairman and two Assistants. Mr. McLachlan recommended a Commissioner and one Assistant. I regard the Chairman as the principal man. The honorable member for Fawkner says it is impossible for all the qualifications required to be found in any one man. I do’ not agree with him. The first qualification is a fair business experience and organizing ability. One of the wealthiest and most prosperous businesses in Sydney to-day is mainly the achievement of a man who, many years ago, was taken out of a billet where he was earning £3 or £4 per week by a hard headed Scotchman, who saw that he was the right type of man. In a few years he had increased his salary five or six times, and to-day it is probably twenty times what he was earning when he was first appointed. Only a few years ago a man in Adelaide was picked out of the timber trade to manage an entirely different business, but he had brains and business instinct.
– He is not the kind of man who will be sought for appointment to this Board.
– He is the type of man we want, and if we could get such a one I would not care what salary he. was paid. His appointment would be the best deal this Parliament had ever made. But if we cannot get the ideal, let us at least get something better than we have to-day. I believe that as a result of the investigations that are being made the conditions are being improved. I am certain that those investigations have borne a good deal of fruit.
– Yes, and directly too, because the report frightened the life out of some fellows, and not before it was timo.
Some of us have been hoping that the day was near at hand when a real Business Board would be appointed to control the Public Service. If the Minister gets together such a Board as I would like to see constituted, his Bill will go all to pieces, because it will not be appropriate to that body. Why? If we get a Board of Management which will improve and render the Public Service efficient, we shall secure a Board whose members will know a good deal more than do some of the men who are responsible for its administration, and the Board must have power, not merely to suggest, but to enforce, reforms. Some Departments are controlled by competent officers, whilst others are not. If we wish to get the best results from a Board of capable men, we shall not utilize the services of those who are merely capable of making suggestions. We shall not appoint men who will say to the head of a Department, “ Look here, if you do not mind me telling you so, a considerable improvement may be. effected here and another one there. But, of course, you are my superior, and I do not wish to hurt your feelings.”
– When the honorable member was Commissioner of Public Works in South Australia, he did not say that.
– I did not. But I had to learn my way about before I did the other thing. If we are going to get the results that Ave have a right to expect from the proposed Board of Management, the members of that Board will require to be vested with power to enforce the improvements which they recommend.
– Who will accept the responsibility for running the Departments then?
– I would give the members of the Board all the powers which are enjoyed by the Railways Commissioners, but I would not make them superior .to Ministers in regard to matters of policy. I am a great believer in Ministerial responsibility.
– The honorable member is going to destroy that.
– I would destroy anything that is bad.
– Then the honorable member should destroy the Ministry.
– No. I would leave the Minister’s authority complete in matters of policy.
– Nearly every question that is put by honorable members to Ministers relates to matters of administration, and not to matters of policy.
– Precisely. There can never be efficiency in our Public Service while an hour of the time of this Parliament is daily wasted in replying to such questions. If we are going to appoint managers of our Public Service, let them be clothed .with the powers of managers. Upon the other hand, if they are to be merely advisers, let us so designate them in this Bill. I shall have a good deal more to say upon this measure when it reaches the Committee stage. But I ask honorable members to assist the Government to get it into Committee in order that we may be afforded an opportunity of doing something to improve it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. West) adjourned.
– In moving -
That this Bill be now read a second time,
I desire to say that the matter with which it deals is one of urgency. Under the Judiciary Act, which was passed by this Parliament in 1912, it is provided that a Full Court, consisting of less than all the
Justices; shall not give a decision, upon any question affecting the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth, unless a majority of the Justices concur in the decision. At the present time, there are seven Justices of the High Court, and no decision can be given upon any constitutional question unless at least four Justices concur in it. The position is that Mr. Justice Powers is absent on leave overseas, and upon his return Mr. Justice Isaacs will take his leave of absence. We shall then have only six Justices of the High Court within the Commonwealth. Some of these Justices will be engaged in the work of the Arbitration Court, others in work connected with the original jurisdiction of the High Court, and others, again, in connexion with its appellate jurisdiction. There will, therefore, be the greatest difficulty experienced in getting together the necessary Justices to enable the Court to adjudicate upon matters involving constitutional issues.
– And they are of great importance.
– Yes. For that reason, we propose to amend the existing law by striking out the words “ unless a majority of the Justices concur in the decision,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ unless at least three Justic.es concur in the decision.” This amendment will enable the Court, in organizing its itinerary, to carry on its work in respect cf constitutional questions. Practical difficulty was experienced even when seven Judges . were here, and were available. For example, an important case involving arbitral powers was heard. The Justices were equally divided upon it, and finally Mr. Justice Starke, who had advised in the case, was obliged to take part in it in his judicial capacity,, in order to permit of a decision being arrived at. The object of this Bill is to enable the judicial work of the High Court to be carried on with expedition. It provides an adequate safeguard in that the decision of questions affecting the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth will require the concurrence of at least three Justices. In addition, another amendment is proposed in section 3 of the Act. In 1915, an amending Judiciary Bill was submitted to this
Chamber. Under sections 75 and 76 of our Constitution, certain original jurisdiction is vested in the High Court, and in respect to other matters this Parliament possesses the power to confer jurisdiction upon it. Under section 75 of our Constitution, the High Court possesses original jurisdiction -
In all matters -
arising under any treaty;
affecting consuls or other representatives of other countries;
in which the Commonwealth, or a per- son suing or being sued on behalf ofthe Commonwealth, is a party;
betweenStates, or between residents of different States, or between a State and a resident of another State:
in which a writ of mandamus or prohibition or an injunction is sought against an officer of the Commonwealth.
Section 76 provides -
The Parliament may make laws conferring original jurisdiction on the High Court in any matter -
arising under this Constitution or involving its interpretation;
arising under any laws made by the Commonwealth ;
of Admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;
relating to the same subject-matter claimed under the laws of different States.
Under section 2 of the Judiciary Act of 1915, this Parliament conferred original jurisdiction upon the High Court -
The distinctive feature of that Act was the granting of criminal jurisdiction to the High Court to enable it to deal with indictable offences. The Bill, in the form in which it was originally introduced, bestowed that power generally. But an amendment was inserted, at the instance of a member of the Opposition, providing -
That this Act shall remain in operation during the present war and for six months thereafter, and for no longer.
It is now proposed to repeal that limitation, and to continue in the High Court the criminal jurisdiction which it has held since 1915. It is a reserve power, which is not to be used upon all occa sions. But it has been found helpful upon certain occasions, and it is only proper that it should be continued.
The same Act gives to the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth, in regard to the filing of indictments, similar powers to those possessed by the different State Attorneys-General. Under this Bill we propose to make that part of the jurisdiction of the. High Court a permanent part of its judicial powers. There are one or two other amendments of a minor character which I propose to circulate amongst honorable members. In one of the States, at the present time, if we initiate a prosecution in an inferior Court, technical objections may be raised to the form of procedure adopted, and there is no power to amend the information upon which the proceedings are based. Accordingly, it is proposed to give to the several Courts of theStates exercising the jurisdiction conferred under the principal Act power to remove any defects, either in form or substance, which may be contained in any information. These, generally, are theobjects of the Bill. It is an urgent measure, but I shall not seek to continue the secondreading debate upon it this evening.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
– I move -
That the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, having furnished its report, it is expedient to carry out the following works: -
Additions and alterations to the General Post Office building, Adelaide, South Australia.
The Public Works Committee have already investigated this matter, and have presented a unanimous report upon it. The General Post Office building in Adelaide is a very old one. The first portion of it was completed in 1872, and the second portion in 1893. The building is quite out of date, and is utterly inadequate to serve the purposes for which it is being used.
– The present conditions are absolutely scandalous.
– They are most unsatisfactory. The PublicWorks Committee reported that -
From an architectural point of view, the President of the Federal Council of the Australian Institute of Architects informed the Committee in evidence that the design under consideration was “ extraordinarily good,” and congratulated Mr. Murdoch, the Commonwealth Architect, on the manner in which he had solved a difficult problem. . . .
In conclusion, the Committee desires to congratulate the Commonwealth Architect on his very capable handling of a very difficult problem.
I need not give further details since the report has been circulated. The estimated cost of the work is £76,000. Certain additional costs will be involved in providing temporary accommodation, and these will bring up the total estimated cost to £80,000. The time necessary to complete the work will be about four years.
– Is there any provision on the Estimates for this work?
– A first instalment has been provided for. Generally speaking, the fullest consideration will be given to the recommendations of the Committee, which reports that the efficiency of the office will be increased by about 25 per cent. by the making of these alterations. The improvements will certainly lead to greater efficiency and economy, and I am anxious that the work, which is urgent, should be proceeded with as soon as possible.
Mr.RILEY (South Sydney) [10.1] . - I do not wish to debate this question since Ibelieve that the Public Works Committee has gone fully into the whole matter, but I should like to ask why one large floor in the Sydney General Post Office has been allowed to remain idle for some time, while negotiations for muchneeded alterations and additions to that post-office have been going on.
– The Government Architect, Mr. Murdoch, is now in Sydney, and is conferring with officers of the Postal Department there with a view to a scheme being submitted as quickly as possible.
-I am glad tohave that assurance.The Adelaide Post Office certainly needs to be brought up to date, and I believe that this will be money well spent.
– The alterations are necessary for the convenience of not only the employees, but the general public.
– Quite so. I trust that the Sydney General Post Office will also receive the early attention of the Department, and that no time will be lost in bringing it up to date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to thank honorable members for the way in which they have expedited the work of the House to-day. The Government have received substantial assistance in getting on with business, and I believe that the work we have done, quite irrespective of parties, will last long beyond our time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 October 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19201006_reps_8_93/>.